Members of the public are invited to give input on the governor's proposed $34.5 billion state budget during a series of public hearings, and lawmakers say the feedback is "critical."

Gov. Chris Christie delivers his budget address
Gov. Chris Christie delivers his budget address (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

The Assembly Budget Committee conducted the second in a series of public hearings Tuesday on Gov. Chris Christie's $34.5 billion state budget proposal for the Fiscal Year starting July 1.

The public is invited to appear before the panel at public hearings, but does your testimony matter at all? The panel's chairman was asked how much weight the public's opinion holds for him.

"A tremendous amount," said Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-Passaic). "It sometimes is a reaffirmation of things that we already know. Sometimes it's things that we hadn't thought about."

Assembly Republican Budget Officer Declan O'Scanlon (R-Red Bank) agreed with Schaer and explained how he relies on input from the public.

"It's a big help. I appreciate them coming out and we really do take some cues from what we get out of these hearings," O'Scanlon said. "The public's input is critical and it works. I will take the lion's share of my budget alteration recommendations probably from these very hearings."

The next Assembly Budget Committee public hearing is scheduled for March 24 in Room 11 of the State House Annex. The Senate budget panel is also conducting public hearings. Log onto to get the full schedule.

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