The old saying about overpromising and underdelivering would be an apt description of the Trenton Democrats’ approach to budgeting.
We heard compelling stories from people who are affected by the decisions we make. Most understand we had difficult choices to make, but that didn’t stop Democrats from promising funds to every group that appeared before the state Assembly Budget Committee.
At one point, their wish list of promises totaled $9 billion beyond the $29 billion we will have to spend, including public calls to make a $3.5 billion pension payment, $2.1 billion in property tax relief and $800 million in job incentives. They made promises with checks they couldn’t cash and now they’re trying to paint Gov. Chris Christie as the culprit of their broken promises. They chose to create a political prop for November instead of a sound plan for our future beyond.
Their proposal was based on unbalanced, irrelevant and uncertified numbers. Even their own advisers said it would be illegal to enact. You can’t balance your checkbook with what you hope you win on next week’s lottery ticket. That simply isn’t reality.
Even if the Democrats’ budget were enacted, it would likely require cruel and grueling midyear cuts, just like the last two budgets they crafted.
The fact that they crafted this plan in mere days after they had months to consider the governor’s proposal, and without any effort to work with Republican members of the Budget Committee, is proof they didn’t put in a serious effort. Their intention wasn’t to come up with an agreeable spending plan; it was to enable them to attack the governor.
Despite these political obstacles, this budget delivers on the Republican promise to spend only the money New Jersey has. This budget builds upon last year’s successes, including a cap on property taxes and historic bipartisan public employee benefits reform.
This budget doubles property tax relief for middle-class families, who face the highest tax bills in the nation, and restores the Senior Freeze Program. It increases aid for all our schools. It protects vital health safety nets for low-income families, senior citizens, the disabled and the uninsured. It keeps New Jersey on a path toward private sector job growth that we started last year by making $180 million worth of targeted tax cuts.
Now, Democrats falsely accuse the governor of cutting things that were never part of any viable spending plan — only in their scheme filled with gluttonous amounts of illegitimate spending. The Republican budget spends actual dollars. The Democrats wanted to use unsubstantiated tax revenues, phantom surpluses and $1 billion worth of fake funds.
Finally, much has been said about our Early Intervention Program for developmentally disabled children. This program serves our most vulnerable youngsters, but how can someone seriously say it was cut when we’re spending $5.7 million more than last year?
Those truths are ignored by Democrats because they don’t fit their political script. Democrats left this governor a budget that spent 30 percent more than the state had. Those times are over.
The Democrats never reached out to Republican members of the Budget Committee to work together. On the contrary, they intentionally withheld their budget language from us until after our hearing started. And that was a mere three days before the entire Legislature had to vote on it. That’s a clear sign they were more interested in picking a fight than participating in a legitimate budget process.
We wanted to triple property tax relief, provide more funding for low-income families, specialized nursing homes and prescription drugs for the most needy. But we understand that we had to live within our means.
We don’t make promises we know we can’t keep — especially when it involves spending money that belongs to the people. Now comes the real challenge of convincing our Democratic colleagues to do the same.