On February 24, Gov. Christie delivered his budget address to a joint session of the legislature, officially kicking off negotiations on the state’s FY 2016 budget. The legislature’s focus for the next few months will essentially be on the budget, as it must be passed by July 1.
The Governor’s plan calls for $33.8 billion in appropriations, which is a 3.1 percent increase over last year’s adjusted appropriation. The additional funds come from a 3.8 percent revenue growth projection.
Discussion of the state’s pension obligations dominated Christie’s budget address. The governor’s spending plan includes a defined benefit pension payment of $1.3 billion, almost double the 2015 payment, but still only 3/10ths of the Actuarially Recommended Contribution (ARC).
The day before the address, Christie was ordered by Superior Court Judge Mary C. Jacobson to make the full pension plan contributions he had promised when signing his 2011 pension overhaul law. The governor has pledged to appeal Jacobson’s ruling, and claims it did not impact the plan released the following day.
Several items on NJCJI’s legislative agenda are budget neutral solutions that would bring a welcome infusion of cash and jobs into New Jersey’s struggling economy and could reduce future spending by the courts.
“The correlation between legal reform and economic growth is evident,” said Marcus Rayner, President of the New Jersey Civil Justice Institute. “Civil justice reform is a way to capture the money we waste on lawyer’s fees and litigation costs – without raising taxes or cutting essential services.”