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Christie's $32.9B NJ Budget Expands Medicaid

Christie proposed adding $40 million to the current-year budget to cover Sandy-related expenses not reimbursed by the federal government.

"This will ensure that we can move ahead with maximum speed, and that those things that fall through the cracks will not bankrupt families, businesses and local governments," Christie said.

Christie's budget abandons the 10 percent tax break he proposed last year that the Democratic-led Legislature refused to go along with. Christie and all 120 members of the Legislature face re-election in November.

His likely challenger, Sen. Barbara Buono, said afterward that Christie's priorities "are wrong for New Jersey." She said the budget does not address the state's persistently high unemployment rate, which was 9.6 percent in December, more than a full percentage point above the federal rate.

The proposed budget adds nearly $100 million to public education and allocates $2 million for a project to allow 200 low-income students in failing public schools scholarships to attend school elsewhere. A similar proposal has stalled in the Legislature, in part because it permits the taxpayer-funded scholarships to be applied to private and parochial school tuition.

The budget also expands the Medicaid rolls by 104,000 by allowing the federal government to take over costs, Christie said.

While making it clear he's no fan of the Affordable Care Act, Christie said he decided to accept federal funding.

"Refusing these federal dollars does not mean that they won't be spent. It just means that they will be used to expand health care access in New York, Connecticut, Ohio or somewhere else," Christie said.

Including New Jersey, 22 states and the District of Columbia have signed on to the expansion and 13 states have rejected it so far.

One casualty of the budget proposal is homeowner tax rebates. Senior, disabled and low-income homeowners expecting rebate credits in May would instead see them in August. The deferral would allow the state to cover a projected $407 million shortfall in the budget that expires in June. New Jersey's constitution doesn't allow deficit spending.

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