New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman said yesterday that she plans to shift the state to a two-year budget cycle beginning with fiscal years 1997 and 1998.

"A two-year budget will not only enable school districts and municipalities to do better long-term planning, but will free my cabinet and the legislature to focus on long-term solutions without spending half of every year worrying about and wrangling over the next budget," Whitman said.

The governor made her remarks in a speech in which she unveiled a host of proposals to revamp the entire state budget process to allow greater participation by the public.

She said time constraints forced her to compromise on public input on her first experience at developing a budget -- the just-approved $15.8 billion fiscal 1995 spending plan. The fiscal year began July 1.

"During the three months I spent preparing my first budget and the three and a half months of review and negotiation with the legislature, I promised I would never do another budget that way again," Whitman said.

She said the speed required to draft proposals and move them through the legislative process precluded adequate public input.

The governor also signed an executive order during her speech that will lift the governor's employee relations council to cabinet-level status. The council will focus on negotiating and reworking contracts "to make government more responsive," Whitman said.

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