The Assembly Budget Committee held a hearing today, a day after Standard & Poor’s lowered New Jersey’s credit outlook from stable to negative based partly on lower than anticipated revenue projections.
More than a week ago, David Rosen, chief budget officer at the Office of Legislative Services, stated in a memo that tax collections for fiscal 2012 fell $254 million short of Gov. Christie’s budget forecast. Christie whose tax cut proposal rests largely on projections of a 7.2 percent revenue gain had sharp words for Rosen, dismissing the OLS chief’s new numbers.
Rosen appeared at today’s hearing but noticeably absent was the state treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff, who declined an invitation to testify. Democratic assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-3), a member of the budget committee, spoke to NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider from the state house.
With regard to the treasurer’s absence, Burzichelli said he was somewhat surprised that he did not appear at today’s hearing in light of the negative action on the state’s credit rating.
“The treasurer could have been helpful today to clarify a few points because the executive branch is speaking to the rating firms as New Jersey goes out to refinance and to float bonds,” said Burzichelli.
The governor in a radio interview this morning called today’s hearing a “political show.” Burzichelli said he had no problem with the governor’s remarks, given the context in which they were made.
“The governor’s comments were made on a radio program serving a drive time audience and I respect the office of governor, I respect this governor and I respect [that] the governor has a right to say anything he chooses to say.”
Still, Burzichelli said the budget committee had a legitimate reason for holding the hearing because revenue numbers aren’t going the way the Christie administration anticipated. If adjustments have to be made in the budget as a result of the shortfall, he said experience tells him they should be made earlier rather than later because “a lot of important things have to be funded through this budget” that Gov. Christie signed.
“People who are planning to receive funding, whether it be the Department of Education, Department of Community Affairs, and how all that spreads out, they’re going to find themselves disappointed and that affects plans otherwise made.”
He also cited factors beyond the state’s control, saying “we’re subject to a lot of things happening outside of the state, so it was important for the treasurer to be with us.”
The scheduling of a budget hearing at this time of year is out of the norm. The governor called the timing “unprecedented.” Burzichelli responded that the fact the governor is continuing to travel around state at town hall forums promoting a tax cut requires an ongoing examination of revenue coming into the state.
“So as the numbers tell us they’re not materializing as he anticipated they would, the ability to do a tax cut for the higher earners becomes less and less likely and that’s why I think we have to have these kinds of hearings now. And we have to be in touch with the information on a more timely basis than a normal course of conduct would allow us to do.”