As he prepares to run for re-election this year, New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie announced his $32.9 billion budget proposal Tuesday, including a federally funded expansion of Medicaid to cover 300,000 additional uninsured New Jersey residents.
The governor’s new budget anticipates a revenue growth of 4.9 percent, smaller than last year’s overly optimistic 8 percent growth protections, which were not met. It also “delays some property tax rebates for local taxpayers, according to three sources with knowledge of the budget plan who spoke on the condition of anonymity,” the Star-Ledger reports.
The budget comes as the state continues to rebuild in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Christie’s budget relies on federal aid to help stimulate the coastal economy, which lost at least 5 percent of its tax base due to destroyed homes and businesses.
The budget is balanced and offers no new tax increases. New Jersey will add $100 million to public education spending and expand its Medicaid program — thus accepting federal money — and open up Medicaid to 300,000 not-yet-insured New Jersey residents.
On the downside, homeowners expecting their property tax rebate will have to wait, because the budget would allow the deferral of property tax refunds in order to shore up a $473 million budget shortfall.
But the biggest news is that Christie, a critic of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, will be able to reap $300 million in federal funding by expanding the state’s Medicaid program in accordance with the new health care law.
“For weeks, a coalition of labor, religious, family and consumer groups waged an aggressive letter-writing and media campaign encouraging Christie to expand the Medicaid program,” the Star-Ledger reports.
The U.S. Supreme Court allowed states to refuse the Medicaid expansion without losing federal matching funds under the program. Medicaid provides health care benefits to the poor, and is funded by both states and the federal government.
New Jersey is one of 22 states that has accepted the federal grant. Christie joins a growing number of Republican governors who are signing on.
“The decision to accept federal funds to expand health coverage will not only help balance the state budget; it will save lives,” Dena Mottola Jaborska of New Jersey Citizen Action, a watchdog coalition that has pushed for the expansion of Medicaid, said, describing the move as “good for New Jersey.”
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