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Another bad month for N.J. budget

November was the second consecutive month when revenues fell more than $200 million short.

New Jersey's budget woes continued to grow in November, when for the second consecutive month state revenues fell more than $200 million short of projections.

State tax and fee collections were off by $201 million last month, according to Treasury figures released yesterday.

That puts the current budget's total shortfall at $459 million just five months into the fiscal year that began July 1. Last month, the Corzine administration predicted a $1.2 billion hole over the length of the budget. State officials warned that the problem could get larger.

"November's shortfall raises additional concerns" about the current fiscal year, state treasurer David Rousseau said in a statement. "We will look more closely at the current-year problem once we get a report on revenues from December, which is one of our heaviest collection months."

Gov. Corzine said the shortfall "is indicative of a very weak economy."

More grim news is expected today, when the state is scheduled to release its latest unemployment figures. Corzine said last week he expected the numbers to show 5,000 to 6,000 job losses in November.

Corzine spoke about the falling revenues after signing a bill intended to spark New Jersey's economy by allowing the Economic Development Authority to back up to $50 million in loans for small and midsize businesses. The plan is one of several economic-development bills Corzine has signed in recent days or intends to sign shortly.

Corzine said his staff was working on closing the budget gap, but he has yet to announce a detailed solution.

"We will be out very early in the new year with the specifics on this," Corzine said.

Senate Republicans called on Corzine to send the state's $32.9 billion budget back to the Legislature for further review.

Assembly Republicans blamed past tax increases for the current budget problems.

"The seeds of this trend go back at least seven years, when the penchant for spending was fueled by raising taxes, making New Jersey an unaffordable place to live and do business," Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon, (R., Monmouth) said in a statement.

The economy's impact on individuals can be seen through some of the figures in yesterday's report.

Corzine said car sales were down 40 to 50 percent, compared with a year ago.

Businesses paid 26.5 percent less taxes than predicted in November and sales taxes were off by 11 percent, reflecting smaller profits and less shopping. In a sign of a bad market for buying and selling homes, realty transfer taxes fell 29.5 percent short of what was budgeted.

People are even smoking and drinking less. Taxes on tobacco products' wholesale sales are down 13.5 percent for the year, and alcoholic beverage taxes are off by 2.5 percent.