The New Jersey budget faced an $11 billion shortfall. Newly elected governor Chris Christie drew attention by taking on state employee unions, especially teachers, and pushed throw a budget with major cuts, numerous fee increases, and elimination of tax-rebates. Republicans are looking at Christie as a model for budget cutting while maintaining popular support. Dems are concerned.
This is a striking contrast with the situation in Illinois where little progress seems to be at hand in dealing with state bills that can't be paid. Or in California which as of today (July 4) still lacks a state budget.
Here are a series of excellent articles covering the NJ budget process and the current "near-deal" on limiting property tax increases, which may or may not be a done deal (see reservations by the assembly speaker.)
This is a GREAT overview of the entire budget process and negotiations. Bravo to reporters Claire Heininger and Josh Margolin for an article that covers the complexity so well.
Here is the article on the budget passing. Note the chart on where the money comes from and where it goes. I wish it were a little more detailed, especially on what state agencies spend what but otherwise useful information.
This is a piece that puts Christie's budget in the perspective of what previous governors did to bring the state to its current situation.
And here is where the property tax issue stands today, with an agreement in the senate and some uncertainty in the assembly.
Not all are happy, and here is a piece on groups opposing the budget deal.
Some earlier coverage in the run-up to the budget include:
State worker protests. (Note the likely cuts to state worker benefits in Wisconsin as well. Pensions and benefits are inviting targets. (Why?) And not just for Reps. Gov. Doyle recommended more or less the same increase in state worker contributions to retirement funds last year that GOPer Scott Walker now supports.)
Universities and colleges take $173M in cuts, plan tuition hikes. In what ways is that a good thing and a bad thing? Discuss.
Christie fighting with teachers unions.
Oh my! Christie urges towns to reject school budgets without a wage freeze!
Subsequently, 53% of such budgets are rejected. Quite an impressive show of support for the Governor's position. Quite a lack of success for the teachers unions.
Here is a comical attempt to spin the results in favor of the teachers unions.
And here is a good non-partisan overview of Christie's conflict with the teachers and the subsequent votes.
Wow. I could go on and on. The Newark Star Ledger deserves huge praise for their detailed coverage and for a page offering the entire chronology. I wish Wisconsin papers would follow their lead in coverage and organization of that coverage on their web pages. This is a model of good work.
Here is the Star-Ledger's overview page.
Read JUST THE HEADLINES on the overview page. Read from bottom to top so you see it in chronological order. Make note of the issues, areas of cuts and revenue increases, and ESPECIALLY how each interest group howls in protest when their ox is gored. Note also in the budget article above how Republican legislators are very troubled about voting for cuts to THEIR suburban school districts. Concern for YOUR ox is bi-partisan indeed.
This is textbook stuff about budget making. The most amazing part is how Christie marshaled the political skill to get the budget through the legislature, where Democrats control both houses, and how he had to struggle to maintain GOP unanimity of support for his plan.
I don't have a dog in this fight. There are good arguments on both sides of budget debates. But as just plain fascinating politics, this case in New Jersey deserves to be widely studied.