Christie’s successor will face budget challenges

Published March 04, 2017
Associated Press

TRENTON, N.J. –  Republican Chris Christie’s final budget as New Jersey governor has not yet passed through the Democrat-controlled Legislature, but already fiscal woes that could result in program cutbacks or higher taxes are on the horizon for whoever who succeeds him.

Christie unveiled a $35.5 billion 2018 spending blueprint on Tuesday without proposing tax increases or slashes to programs, but tax cuts enacted under his watch, a ballooning pension payment and mandated education spending will saddle his successor with challenging budget decisions.

Christie can’t run for re-election because of term limits. None of the leading Democratic and Republican candidates running to succeed him has unveiled his or her own prospective budget. While they’ve already begun to signal how they might approach the looming problems, it’s difficult to tell exactly how they would balance the budget.

A closer look at the issue:


Topping the list of issues is an estimated $1.1 billion hole from the reduction of the sales tax and phase-out of the estate tax that Christie and lawmakers agreed to last year as part of a deal on funding transportation.

Next year’s budget will also confront the prospect of a roughly $1.5 billion increase in the pension payment, if the current schedule is adhered to. And then there’s the school-spending formula approved by the Supreme Court that Christie failed to fund over seven years to the tune of about $1 billion a year.

There’s also significant uncertainty surrounding what could happen to federal aid the state gets, including more than $4 billion a year from the expansion of Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act. President Donald Trump and Republican-led Congress promise to repeal and replace the law.