The New Jersey Senate yesterday approved a $14.7 billion fiscal year 1993 budget, but the vote was four shy of the number needed to overide a possible veto from Gov. Jim Florio.
The Assembly was expected to pass the spending plan as well, in a vote scheduled for late last night.
The Senate vote, 23 to 13, came largely along party lines, with the Republican majority favoring the package despite warnings from Democrats that the budget is already out of balance.
State Treasurer Samuel Crane warned this week that about $226 million in miscalculations by Republicans mean the budget's projected $225 million surplus will be wiped out for the fourth year in a row.
Administration officials said the lack of a surplus and other shaky budget assumptions could force the rating agencies to downgrade the state's credit.
Standard & Poor's Corp. put New Jersey's AA-plus rating on CreditWatch with negative implications earlier this month, citing the budget crisis.
Moody's Investors Service and Fitch Investors Service both rate the state triple-A.
Republicans yesterday rejected the administration's dire predictions.
"I am appalled at some of the misinformation being given out by my Democratic colleagues which is apparently aimed at inciting public hysteria," said Sen. Joseph Kyrillos, R-Monmouth. "This budget...is the end of the tax bonanza and spending sprees, budget gimmicks, and the irresponsible fiscal policy that has pushed our unemployment levels to the highest in the nation."
The budget passed by the Senate yesterday cuts about $1.1 billion in spending and incorporates a $608 million sales tax cut, which rolls the rate back to 6% from 7%.
Gov. Florio and administration officials have argued that the cuts are too deep and will require unprecedented layoffs of state workers.
The governor late yesterday had not yet indicated whether he would veto the budget if the Assembly passed it.
In a radio address Tuesday, Gov. Florio appeared reluctant to veto the budget, saying it could create fiscal chaos by forcing the state to miss its June 30 deadline. He said he expected the veto would be overridden anyway.
But local news reports yesterday, quoting senior administration officials, said the governor was leaning toward rejecting the package and had already written his veto message.