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State Treasurer Fails to Show at Assembly Budget Committee Hearing

9-19-12

The treasurer was on everybody’s mind this morning as the assembly budget committee gathered for a budget hearing. The question of whether he would show or not was answered by committee chairman Vincent Prieto around 9:30 a.m.

“I received a letter that he had declined,” he said to the committee. He also added that he thought the treasurer’s failure to appear was “an insult to every resident of the state of New Jersey that deserves to know where we are today.”

The Democratically-controlled committee called the hearing to learn more about a $254 million revenue shortfall reported last week by the Office of Legislative Services for fiscal year 2012 that ended this past June. OLS budget officer David Rosen stood by that number today.

In his letter to Prieto, Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff declined to appear, stating “I do not have any definitive information beyond that which is already available to the committee and the public.”

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Rosen testified that a complete tally of the 2012 shortfall won’t be available until December or January, but that his estimate is close. “Treasury ought to have a pretty good idea, now, of how the year turned out; it may not be to the last dollar but probably within tens of millions of dollars,” he told told the committee.

Republican members objected to the very idea of a September budget meeting. Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-13) echoed the governor’s sentiment that today’s hearing was more of a political show than substance. “Let’s be honest here,” he said. “This committee’s never met, appropriately never met, this time of year because nobody really knows the real numbers. So it’s pointless.”

Prieto defended the hearing, calling a September budget hearing part of the new normal. “I’m new to this committee so then it’s my purview to call these meetings and I’ve heard here on many occasions that Trenton has been turned upside down,” said Prieto. “So you can expect this is the new normal for this committee.”

Democrats said the Christie administration admitted the shortfall in a bond filing on Wall Street and that its implications could mean spending cuts in fiscal 2013 and certainly not a tax cut as the governor is calling for.

“I think a possible tax cut at this time wouldn’t be prudent,” said Prieto.

O’Scanlon charged that tax cuts are the very last thing that his Democratic colleagues want to do. “I think a tax cut should be a much higher priority than my friends on the other side of the aisle think a tax cut should be,” he said.

The Christie budget was already relying on optimistic revenue growth, 7.2 percent highest in the nation. David Rosen today said, factor in the new shortfall and revenues will have to grow 8.2 percent to keep this year’s budget in balance and that’s without a tax cut.

Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron files this report from the Statehouse.