Lt. Governor Guadagno, Madam Speaker, Mr. President, members of the Legislature, fellow New Jerseyans:
I am pleased to present to you my budget for Fiscal Year 2014.
The budget continues a journey you began with me three years ago – to get New Jersey’s house in order; to turn Trenton upside down; to make hard but better choices so that we could put our state back on a path to growth.
For the fourth year in a row, the budget maintains the fiscal discipline we need to restore New Jersey. Fiscal sanity has indeed returned to Trenton.
For the fourth year in a row, this budget is balanced and imposes no tax increases on the people of New Jersey. I want every New Jersey citizen to remember just how different things were before we arrived. 115 tax and fee increases in eight years. Skyrocketing spending. $13 billion in deficits left on our doorstep by the irresponsibility of the past.
We must never take for granted what we have already achieved. Reduced spending. New jobs. Balanced budgets four years in a row. And lower taxes. It is truly a new day for New Jersey.
Lieutenant Governor, Mr. President, Madam Speaker, members of the Legislature, distinguished guests, former Governors, and citizens of the State of New Jersey:
It is my pleasure, and my duty, to present to you my budget for the year ending June 30, 2013.
Two years ago, when I entered this chamber for the first time, the fiscal condition of our state was as dire as it had been for decades. Hope was low. Pessimism seemed like a permanent state of mind. My thoughts wandered back to my inaugural – to why I wanted this job in the first place. On Inauguration Day, I said, “I asked to serve, because I believe we can do it.”
I did believe, even in those difficult days, that real leadership could turn New Jersey around. In those darker days of recession, we began our journey together toward the New Jersey Comeback with some hard choices, some very hard choices. We took those first steps together – we knew what we had to do.
We had to get our budget under control, and so we cut spending – not spending growth, but the actual dollars spent by state government – two years in a row. We were able to preserve and fund essential priorities, but it was the first time in decades that real spending had actually been cut two years in a row.
As you know, we took other steps as well – reforming pensions and health benefits and capping the growth of property taxes and the interest arbitration awards that drive them.
There was one more thing we needed to begin the turnaround of the state we love. We had to feel good about ourselves again. We had to believe in each other again. We had to dig down deep into our well of Jersey strength and restore our confidence. To do this for our state and for each other, there were two indispensible elements – leadership and truth.
Both require courage. Both must come from what we feel from within. Both could lead us to better days. For those of you in this chamber, and you know who you are, who gave both to our state and its citizens – I say thank you. To the millions of New Jerseyans who gave both to our state – I am in your debt. To those who have yet to give, there is good news. It is not too late – because the New Jersey Comeback has just begun. Resolve today to join us in the tough choices which leadership and truth inexorably lead us to and join us now. End the nay saying – join us to accelerate the New Jersey Comeback this year.
I said at the time that these tough choices would pave the way for better ones in the future.
You see, because our previous tough choices have indeed made a difference. Those budgets for Fiscal Year ‘10 and Fiscal Year ’11 were balanced – without raising taxes. Since I took office, we as a state have added nearly 60,000 private-sector jobs. And 2011 was the best year of job growth since the year 2000 and places New Jersey in the top third among the states.
In these last two years, we have begun to move our unemployment rate in the right direction – down, from 10.1% when I was sworn in to 9% today.
Today, it is time to continue making those better choices. Today, we will both maintain our fiscal discipline, and drive New Jersey into a new era of growth. Today, it is time to put the New Jersey Comeback into high gear.