Another Tough Budget for New Jersey
According to the Department of the Treasury, revenue collections for Fiscal Year 2015 are just about where Gov. Chris Christie projected they would be, but that does not mean the state is flush with cash.
In fact, the top two lawmakers on the Assembly Budget Committee said Monday that times are still very tough and groups receiving state funding should be happy next year if they get what they got this year.
"The bottom line is this budget does not answer so many of the questions, so many of the needs of the state of New Jersey," said Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Gary Schaer (D-Passaic). "There's more questions than answers in this budget and we look forward to the presentations by the (Christie) Administration in terms of better understanding what it is that they're trying to achieve."
On March 13, the treasurer released the latest revenue update that said cash collections were up 4.9 percent over FY 2014, closely tracking the FY 2015 projected growth rate of 5.3 percent.
"We can work within the amount of money we have to treat people fairly. We can never give everybody everything they want. We have enough revenues here to take care of the people that need to be taken care of," insisted Republican Assembly Budget Officer Declan O'Scanlon (R-Red Bank).
Both Schaer and O'Scanlon agreed that a lot could change if a plan to replenish the Transportation Trust Fund is announced and if a judge decides the state has to pay roughly $3 billion more into the public employees' pension fund than the governor has budgeted for. Schaer said those issues have to be addressed.
"There is no doubt that the only thing that we have done in the past five or six years is kick the can down the road. I think people are frustrated. I think people are tired and they should be," Schaer said.
The Budget Committee was scheduled to take a third round of public testimony on Christie's FY 2015 budget proposal Tuesday at the State House. O'Scanlon said the panel will likely hear from people and groups that would like more state funding, but conceded that probably will not be possible.
"There are always people that consider themselves under-served," O'Scanlon said. " Many of them, they're right, but we have to balance out the services we provide and the impact on taxpayers."