POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

State Revenues Below Fiscal Year 2012 Projections

By Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron
NJ Today

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Paul Sarlo says the state is in for some difficult fiscal times ahead.

Reacting to yesterday’s release by the Treasury Department of an audit showing the final revenue figures for Fiscal Year 2012 were $123 million below projections, Sarlo says the real number for the fiscal year that ended last June is $288 million below projection for the three major taxes, $318 million for all taxes and that Treasury did some fuzzy math that draws funds from the current-year budget.

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“So on day one of the new fiscal year when they were projecting 8 percent revenue growth, they were already stealing revenues and stealing dollars from the new fiscal year to balance their books for the previous fiscal year,” Sarlo said.

With revenues coming in below projections for the current fiscal year as well, Sarlo says the state is staring at a problem.

“We do know as we sit here in the second week of January, that through the end of November they were $540 million short in the current fiscal year,” Sarlo said. “And every month that they do not grow by 8.4 percent, that number only grows.”

Asked if Treasury buried yesterday’s bad news, which was not on the department’s website, a spokesman for the treasurer said the annual audit was given to legislators at 2 p.m. and was available on a separate OMB website.

“Well, I think if it was good news, they would have published it, they would have had a press conference and they would have actually published it, they would’ve went on record and published it,” Sarlo said.

Senate Republican Budget Officer Tony Bucco says revenues are still coming in slightly above last year and the situation is manageable.

“You’re gonna see additional cuts come out of this budget because of the revenues not being up to projections, but I’m not concerned about it because I think we can make the cuts,” Bucco said.

But the full effects of Superstorm Sandy on revenue have yet to be felt, and while rebuilding will stimulate some growth, probably not enough right away to ease a growing shortfall, Sarlo says.

“If we stay stagnant, if we grow at the same pace that we’ve grown for the first five months, which is less than 1 percent, it will hit $2 billion,” said Sarlo.

So heading into the governor’s budget message next month for fiscal 2014, the fiscal picture in 2013 is neither clear nor bright.