Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, the Republican Budget Officer, caused quite a stir when he accused Newark Mayor Cory Booker of using tax payer money to wage what he calls a personal vendetta against Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek.
The assemblyman told Managing Editor Mike Schneider that while he was happy have attention focused on how the state spends tax payers’ dollars, he wanted to ratchet down the rhetoric. He said that the Devils litigation was mishandled but said he wasn’t accusing Booker “of making mistakes that no one else might make.”
O’Scanlon admitted that reaction to his remarks was “a little more hot” than he anticipated but said attention needs to be paid to outspent state tax payer dollars.
“Our obligation as stewards of state tax payers’ dollars isn’t to not ask the question cause we fear we might offend someone. It’s to make sure the people who are making those decisions make wise ones in the first place so we have less questions to ask.”
It’s well known that Mayor Booker and Gov. Christie are friendly and collaborate on projects from time to time. But O’Scanlon said no one from the governor’s office contacted him to tone down the rhetoric.
Regarding Mayor Booker, O’Scanlon said that he had done many good things and even I backed his candidacy when he was running for mayor.
“Certainly, he’s a huge improvement over his predecessor. So, there’s areas where he’s doing a good job and there’s areas where he could do better. And I think that’s fair to talk about. Not just about him but about me, about the state legislature, about the governor. This is bipartisan. We all have to do a better job when we’re dealing with public dollars.”
The latest estimates from the Office of Legislative Services reveal a shortfall of $150-200 million for fiscal year 2012. When asked if he was concerned, O’Scanlon said the real numbers won’t be known for a number of months.
“We got to pay attention and make sure we’re spending within our means. This administration has a history of doing exactly that — willing to tell the people when there’s bad news to be delivered. And they will do that and they’re confident in their numbers right now.”
O’Scanlon took a verbal shot at the Democratic position that the state cannot afford a tax cut right now, saying that a tax cut ranks low on their list of priorities.
“Whether we are that short or not, it’s a matter of what can’t we afford? I would suggest we probably need to look, if we do end up with a situation like that, and I’m not saying we will, but it’s a matter of priorities. For my friends on the other side of the aisle, the last priority is giving people back their own money or letting them keep more of their own money.”