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Christie Proposes Budget With No New Taxes, Increased Public Pension Funding

TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Gov. Chris Christie, back in New Jersey after ending his Republican presidential bid, proposed a $34.8 billion budget to the Democrat-led Legislature on Tuesday in his second-to-last budget address.

"This is the seventh time I have presented a budget to this chamber, and I'm proud to say this for a seventh time," Christie said as he presented the budget. "This budget is balanced. And once again it is balanced through fiscal responsibility, and not on the backs of our citizens – for the seventh straight year, this budget imposes no new taxes on the people of New Jersey."

His proposed budget increases funding for the public pension, but leaves for later a solution on the state's troubled transportation funding, WCBS 880's Kelly Waldron reported.

Christie is proposing making a nearly $1.9 billion payment into the state's pension. That is an increase over last year's payment of $1.3 billion and in line with what the governor said he would pay.

The budget also includes a nearly $94 million increase in school aid and an additional $29 million in local tax relief.

The new budget projects a nearly $800 million surplus. Most of the state's revenue growth is projected to come from growing income and sales tax revenues.  

Christie implored Democrats not to count him as a lame duck for the remainder of his term, and he called attention to the times when he and lawmakers worked successfully in the past.

"Are we going to waste those days on partisanship and politics, or will you work with me to use those 630 days to help bring relief to our overburdened taxpayers?'' he said.

Christie said he's ready to fix the state's remaining problems and called for fixing the public pension and benefits system as well as the state's road and bridge fund, which could run out of money for repairs by this summer. He adds, though, it must be done in a way that's "fair'' to taxpayers. He has said he would not consider tax increases without lowering rates elsewhere.

Christie said that it's a politically driven mischaracterization to imply that the trust fund is in crisis and said the administration is looking for ways to control costs and waiting for "realistic proposals from lawmakers.'' Christie's former transportation commissioner, Jamie Fox, told lawmakers last April that the fund was in or soon would be in crisis.

Democrats said the state's 14.5-cent gasoline tax will have to be hiked to pay for road and bridge work, though leaders have not unveiled a plan to do so. Christie linked his opposition to tax hikes to the state's falling unemployment rate.

Christie is also considering his options for funding the state's public pension system. He'll try to sway Democrats who are pushing forward a proposal to amend the constitution to require quarterly pension payments. Christie dedicated a portion of his State of the State address last month to criticizing the plan, which Democrats hope to have on the November ballot.

He slammed a proposed constitutional amendment calling for quarterly pension payments, saying it would put public employees ahead of other residents.

"This chamber cannot divide our state between government workers with huge benefits and every day New Jersey taxpayers who not only don't have those benefits, but also must pay for them for a privileged few,'' Christie said.

Public unions say they were forced into supporting an amendment after Christie reneged on a 2011 law that proscribed specific yearly payments into the pension.

In response to the announcement, react: New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney says that Gov. Chris Christie's budget address was full of cheap shots and differed from what he described as a conciliatory private briefing the governor's office gave to lawmakers.

Senate Democratic leaders praised Christie for proposing the pension payment, but Sweeney had harsher words Tuesday for Christie's characterization that the state's transportation fund isn't a problem.

Christie has a strong position compared to the Democrat-led Legislature because the governor has a line-item veto and can strip out changes that lawmakers might make to his budget.

For example, in the current $33.8 billion budget Christie eliminated increased spending proposed by the Democrats for the pension and vetoed a tax increase on income over $1 million.

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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