With the state’s budget address set to occur tomorrow, the Assembly Budget Committee held its first hearing with Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-36) as the new chairman. Schaer told NJTV News Managing Editor Mike Schneider that his first hearing as chair was invigorating.
“Obviously it’s a tremendously important committee within the workings of the Assembly and government as a whole here in New Jersey, but very thrilling, exciting, a good experience,” said Schaer. “Though, unfortunately dealing with the subject that is not so wonderful sometimes and that is the budget of this great state.”
A recent report found New Jersey’s debt had increased to record levels and according to Schaer, the state is seeing some hard times. Schaer said that the state has been rocked a bit over the past few years, but that there will be no tax increases and that recently there have been bond increases.
“We need a budget which represents the needs and concerns of the state, the affordability of the people to pay for it and to do it in a reasonable and fiscally prudent way,” said Schaer.
As Gov. Chris Christie is set to deliver the state’s budget address Tuesday, Schaer said that he is hopeful that the governor will address topics that matter for the state’s Democrats. There as issues that Democrats have disagreed with the governor, but Schaer said that there are more items that they have agreed with him on. For the budget address, Schaer hopes the governor delivers a real assessment of where the state is and where it needs to go and the plans to get the state to where it needs to be.
During the Assembly Budget Committee’s hearing, the Stealth Bill sponsored by Assemblyman Craig Coughlin was discussed, a bill that former Assembly speaker, Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver, refused to move forward. Schaer says that the bill has been taken off of the agenda but that it has been considered by members of the committee during the hearing.
Had the Stealth Bill passed, it would have given government officials a raise. Schaer said the bill’s sponsor decided to revisit the bill and make changes to it.
Whether the state can afford to give raises to government officials, Schaer said that the bill is not something that that should be considered as there are lots of other concerns that need to be evaluated.