N.J. budget talks move into higher gear

    New Jersey lawmakers now have a little more than four weeks to enact a new state budget.

    At the Statehouse in Trenton, there’s optimism the deadline will be met.

    Sen. Tony Bucco, the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, said lawmakers are examining Gov. Chris Christie’s budget proposal line by line.

    “The governor has instructed us that we can change line items, but it’s got to be made within the monies within the budget. In other words you go out and raise taxes, you can’t go out and raise fees,” said Bucco. “You can massage the money around to different accounts, but within the dollar budget that he presented.”

    Budget committee chairman Paul Sarlo said a big concern for lawmakers is finding the money to comply with the state Supreme Court’s order to provide an additional $500 million to low-income school districts.

    Sarlo said Tuesday he anticipates the pace of budget discussions will intensify as the June 30 deadline nears.

    “I don’t believe there are any really serious negotiations going on. The Democrats’ leadership will be meeting later this week, and we will begin to put together a plan,” said Sarlo. “We have not had any internal or in-depth discussions with the governor’s office on where this budget will end up.”

    Sarlo and Bucco are both confident that the Legislature will come to terms on a new budget by the end of June.

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