Deal Could Come Today In NJ Budget Talks [AUDIO]
In February, Governor Chris Christie proposed a $32.9 billion State Budget, and hearings on the spending plan have been going on for months and closed-door negotiations have been taking place for weeks.
The constitutionally mandated deadline for a signed and balanced budget is midnight June 30, but key players in the process say the spending plan could be put to bed as early as this week.
"Hopefully we'll get some clarity before the end of the week," says Democratic Assembly Budget Committee chairman Vinnie Prieto. "Things could get close in a minute and they could get really far apart in a minute. It all depends. You know, there could be sticking points."
The ranking Republican on the Assembly budget panel shares Prieto's optimism, but warns nothing has been finalized just yet.
"There's a lot of give and take from both sides of the (political) aisle," explains Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon. "The people of New Jersey should be encouraged that there seems to be consensus over this fiscally responsible budget (but) We (Republicans) are not going to agree to a fiscally irresponsible budget. If we have to hash it out and we have to have a fight and we have to be here until God knows when, we'll do that too."
The State Senate Budget Committee has scheduled a hearing for tomorrow morning that could include a vote on a budget bill if a deal is struck today with the Christie Administration.
"We (the Assembly) can get things done very quickly and tee it up and hopefully by the 24th (of June) we'll be going home," says Prieto. "If it were up to me we'd be going home Thursday so let's see what happens."
Scheduling a budget hearing before an agreement has been reached or an actual bill has even been drafted is really the smart thing to do, according to Assembly Democratic Leader Lou Greenwald.
"We're just setting dates, so that if it does get done today we're ready to go tomorrow (and) if not, we just keep pushing it back," explains Greenwald. "We've been working with the Governor's office so I think right now we are trying to get a negotiated budget. It wouldn't be our (Democrats) own budget. It would be a budget that everybody would sign off and agree on."