NJ’s Tedious Budget Process [AUDIO]
To many average New Jerseyans and some elected officials the State Budget process is too long, too tedious and sometimes too partisan.
That's not necessarily a bad thing. The spending plan that is ultimately signed by the Governor determines how much state aid your town and schools will get and those are key factors in dictating how much you'll be forced to pay in taxes. Rushing through the process could be a worse strategy than plodding through it.
"This is the early stages," explains State Senate Budget Committee chairman, Paul Sarlo. "There's not a lot of details out yet on this budget. The Governor's office has not released all the details so everybody is working off of an executive summary."
Until lawmakers get the actual budget bill they have to look at the big picture. Sarlo thinks the major issues will be funding to hospitals, nursing homes, the developmentally disabled and higher education. He says the heavy lift starts after the State Treasurer releases the April tax collection figures. That happens in mid-May.
"The May revenues, those will guide us accordingly as we head into the final months," explains Sarlo. "That's when we go into high gear. The end of May, early June we go into high gear to finalize the budget."
March and April will be dedicated to public hearings on Governor Chris Christie's proposed $32.9 billion spending plan. Average New Jerseyans will have the opportunity to sound off. Budget committees in both houses of the legislature will also get at least two cracks at each of Christie's cabinet commissioners.
"March and April is strictly fact-finding, doing the research and learning more about what's in this budget," says Sarlo. "The details are to come. The details will be forthcoming."
The constitutional deadline for a signed and balanced State Budget is midnight June 30th.