On February 26, Gov. Christie delivered his budget address to a joint session of the legislature, officially kicking off negotiations on the state’s FY 2015 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 $34.4 billion in spending, which is an increase of $1.46 billion over last year’s budget. The additional funds come from a 5.8 percent revenue growth projection.
The judicial branch would get $4.5 million more than last year under the Governor’s plan, bringing total spending on the third branch up to $692,419,000. While this may seem like a good sized chunk of change, it is a drop in the bucket compared to the $2.25 billion the state looks to put towards the state’s pension fund. And even that is only 57 percent of what actuaries say is needed to be fully funding the retirement plans of public workers.
Christie hinted during his budget address that the on-going pension fund demands will force the state to make some tough choices, and that the state faces a looming crisis unless additional cuts are made or new funding is found.
State Democrats echo the sentiment that a crisis is at hand, but believe the problem lies with the stagnant economy and corresponding lack of jobs.
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 tort 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.”