From the AP:
With Gov. Jon S. Corzine finalizing plans to increase highway tolls to help solve the state’s chronic fiscal woes, New Jersey enters 2008 with the nation’s third largest budget deficit, according to a new analysis.
Corzine is weighing plans to boost Garden State Parkway and New Jersey Turnpike tolls to pay state debt. He plans to introduce his plan to the Legislature on Jan. 8.
But the state also faces a projected budget deficit of up to $3 billion for the fiscal year that starts July 1, a hole that comes with Democrats looking to increase state aid for schools by about $580 million.
A recent review by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found 13 states, including several of the nation’s largest, face budget shortfalls next year. Only California and New York face larger gaps than New Jersey.
California faces a deficit that could be as large as $14 billion, while New York faces a projected $4.3 billion shortfall, the review found.
The center cited housing market troubles as a leading cause for state fiscal woes, cutting sales tax collections from the sales of homes, furniture, appliances and construction materials, but New Jersey has had annual budget deficits since 2001.
It has solved them by, among other moves, increasing income taxes, corporate taxes, cigarette taxes and sales taxes.
In 2006, the Garden State increased sales, corporate, cigarette and other taxes by $1.84 billion, easily the largest total tax increase among states that year, though it avoided tax increases in 2007 when Democrats who control the Legislature faced re-election. They kept their control in last November’s election.
Corzine hasn’t ruled out tax increases in 2008, but hasn’t indicated he will propose increasing any, either. He has noted state taxes are considered high, and The Tax Foundation recently determined New Jersey has the nation’s third-highest tax burden.
Rather, Corzine has asked his administration to present ideas to cut $3 billion from the state’s $33.5 billion budget.