Gov. Corzine announced today that the state has collected $400 million more than was expected in its tax amnesty program, prompting the legislature to move its budget deliberations back a week to consider how to spend the windfall.

The governor called the surprise revenue an "extraordinary development" that must be appropriately considered by the legislature, which had been expected to vote today on the final budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

"The first thing we will restore is property tax relief," Corzine said at a press conference in the governor's outer office. However, he declined to commit to restoring property tax rebates, which under the current budget proposal would have been suspended for everyone except senior citizens and the disabled.

Corzine said there will be no "Christmas trees" added to the budget – the Trenton name for pork-barrel spending that in years past has been sneaked into the budget in the final days of budget negotiations. He also said special interest groups that might want to line up for money should understand that property tax relief would come first.

State officials originally projected the tax amnesty would net the state $100 million. Last month, the estimate was changed to $200 million.

By Monday, June 15, the deadline for taxpayers to pay outstanding bills, the state had collected more than $600 million. Corzine said the figure exceeds any amount previously collected by the state in a tax amnesty program and that he believes it exceeds the amount collected by any state.

The governor said thousands more envelopes containing checks have yet to be opened and counted.

The state spending plan now will be returned to budget committees in both the Assembly and Senate on Monday. A final vote in both houses is tentatively scheduled for next Thursday.

Treasury spokesman Tom Vincz said the state spent about $2 million to advertise the tax amnesty program not just in New Jersey but throughout the country.

Assembly Speaker Joseph J. Roberts Jr. (D., Camden) said the success of the tax amnesty program "again shows how New Jersey Democrats have indeed been ahead of the curve in responding to this economic crisis."

"Those who criticized this program and never offered an alternative must now confront the reality that this was the nation's most successful tax amnesty program and a smart and sensible policy," he added.