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TRENTON-Unlike a year ago when a budget impasse shut down everything from state government to the state-monitored casinos and state-owned racetracks for several days, New Jersey will apparently go into the new fiscal year with a fiscal package in place. Legislative leaders and officials of the administration of Gov. Jon Corzine yesterday hammered out a tentative agreement for a new budget with total spending of $33.5 billion.

The good news from this year’s budget is that for the first time in five years there are no new taxes. The better news is that the package encompasses an estimated $16.6 billion in property tax relief for tax-strapped residents.

“This agreement charts a path to an historic level of property tax relief and reform,” says state treasurer Bradley Abelow, representing the Corzine administration, in a prepared statement. “The administration and the legislature have reached a consensus on a framework for a budget.”

Much of the tax relief will come in the form of increased state aid for schools, easing local municipalities’ fiscal burden and, by extension, residents’ tax burden. The budget agreement also designates $2 billion for a variety of direct tax credits and rebates.

Other highlights include an additional $9 million in municipal aid in a variety of programs. Legislators and administration officials also agreed to cut an additional $225 million in state outlays in various areas, and the final package calls for a surplus of approximately $600 million.

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