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Corzine: Eliminate Dept. of Agriculture

TRENTON Gov. Jon S. Corzine proposed on Tuesday eliminating the state Department of Agriculture as a cost-cutting measure in the proposed spending plan he dubbed a "cold turkey" budget.

"Failing to take on the tough choices will only force New Jersey into a deeper fiscal swamp, and weigh down our taxpayers with more unbearable financial burdens," Corzine said during his budget address delivered to a joint session of the Legislature. "That outcome is unacceptable."

The proposal was part of the elimination of three state departments in the FY2009 budget, including the Commerce Commission and the Department of Personnel.

If approved, the programs handled by the departments would be assumed by other state departments and agencies.

Savings are expected to come from the loss of three cabinet-level positions, at a salary of $141,000 each, and the elimination of administrative functions and other costs saved through consolidation, according to budget documents released by the state Treasury Department.

Combined with other government shrinking measures in the state the elimination of 3,000 jobs through early retirement programs and layoffs the administration estimated $350 million in savings.

Treasury spokesman Mark Perkiss declined to comment on the savings expected solely through elimination of the Department of Agriculture, saying only that additional details would be released in the coming days.

With little information, legislators responded to the news with skepticism.

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