According to revenue figures released yesterday by the Treasury Department, state tax collections for the first two months of the fiscal year came in almost 5 percent less than what Gov. Christie had forecast. There was more bad news for the state today. Preliminary figures show the state unemployment rate at 9.9 percent, up from 9.8 percent.
NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider spoke with Republican Sen. Kip Bateman (R-16) about the latest data and what it means for the state’s economic outlook. Bateman emphasized that it’s too soon to hit the panic button based on revenue numbers drawn from just two months.
“Obviously I’d like to see the numbers increase but there’s a slow recovery and it’s gonna take time and I think everybody is jumping on doom and gloom,” he said.
The latest figures come after Standard & Poor and other rating agencies lowered New Jersey’s credit outlook from stable to negative. According to Bateman, it’s important to remember that the rating companies didn’t lower New Jersey’s rating, they just lowered the outlook.
September will be a key month, he said. “Things have gotten a little better. I mean the casino numbers were up I think over 5 percent which is encouraging, and I still think once the governor gets his other programs in place things are going to turn around.”
Calling for national perspective, the senator pointed out that other states were hurting just as much as New Jersey. Even so, the state’s unemployment number at just under 10 percent is lagging behind the national average of 8.1 percent last month. Batemen conceded that more bipartisan effort is required in Trenton.
“The governor has been trying to get some very key programs [through] the legislature — the dual office holding, the sick payouts. There’s a lot to do in the legislature and the governor can’t do it by himself.”
He cited the testimony of the Office of Legislative Services budget officer at yesterday’s budget hearing in arguing for a wait and see approach. “Even Dave Rosen from OLS said ‘listen, we shouldn’t push a panic button yet,’ so let’s wait and see.”
Rosen was heavily criticized by the governor after an OLS report saying the state’s revenue fell $254 million below projections for fiscal year 2012, which ended June 30. But Bateman wasn’t about to jump into that conflict. “I’m not gonna comment on Dave Rosen,” he said. “He does his job and the governor has his own opinion on Dave Rosen.”
Despite the string of bad economic news, Bateman wasn’t backing down from his position in favor of a tax cut.
“We still have money set aside for the tax cut and hopefully the numbers will come in better in the fall and if they do the governor will go forward with his and the Senate president’s tax cut. I think it’s important to New Jerseyans to give them a tax cut.”