Tea Party Questions Christie's Budget - NBC New York

Tea Party Questions Christie's Budget

Not Enough Cuts, Say Some Fiscal Conservatives



    (Published Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011)

    New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has the reputation of a fiscal bulldog, but his second budget address had more bark than bite.

    In the $29.4 billion dollar spending plan, Christie proposed increasing hospital and education funding.

    The straight-talking governor also keeps aid to towns and cities flat, which is far from the budgetary bloodbath some conservatives wanted to see.

    "I wanted to hear him say he was going to be cutting a lot of state government,” said Tim Adriance, a co-founder of the New Jersey Tea Party Coalition.

    “I want to see programs cut. I want to see cuts across the board. I don’t see that in his budget."

    Instead of reducing spending, many Tea Party faithful were surprised to hear Chris Christie's budget actually increases state spending by 1 percent. The governor can only claim total spending is down, because there is no federal stimulus this year.

    "It’s not enough because the devils are in the details. There’s just too much that he’s banking on," Adriance said.

    For Christie's budget plan to work, he is gambling that the Democrats, who control the state assembly, will pass a significant reduction in pension and health benefits for state workers.

    "There can no longer be two classes of citizens - one that receives rich health and pension benefits - and all the rest who are left to pay for them," Christie said.

    Christie's proposal reflects a carrot-stick strategy. Instead of offering a package of ruthless spending cuts, the Garden State governor is restoring some of the funds cut from education and health care last year. In return, Christie is insisting on long-term reductions in public worker pension and benefit obligations that threaten to bankrupt the state.

    In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker has taken a more confrontational approach, attaching his pension/benefits proposal to legislation that would reduce collective bargaining rights for public employee unions.

    While Christie is not meddling with union rights, his rhetoric remains brash. In the budget speech, he challenged the state senate and assembly to approve public pension reform by the end of March. Without pension reductions Christie says he will not make a $500 million contribution to the state pension fund, which is already under-funded by at least $3 billion.

    "This is what is killing the state of New Jersey. The cost of the pension and health care are destroying the state’s economy," Christie said.