TRENTON – The Senate budget officer is ready to take control of a majority-sponsored budget, but he’s waiting for a caucus consensus to emerge.
On Wednesday, state Sen. Ray Lesniak, (D-20), of Elizabeth, joined Majority Leader Barbara Buono, (D-18), of Metuchen, and a group of other Democratic lawmakers who are asking the upper chamber majority to take the reins of the budget process this year.
Sen. Paul Sarlo, (D-36), said, “From the beginning I’ve wrestled with whether or not we should do a Democratic-sponsored budget. In light of the recent occurrences – an unexpected surplus in revenue, the Supreme Court ruling, the governor throwing his hands up and throwing (the budget) back to the Legislature – we should consider solving the constitutional crisis he has created with education funding.
“If that means sponsoring our own budget, so be it,” Sarlo said. “Before I totally commit to that, I think we need to have a discussion with all of our members. I need to present all of the options to the Senate Democratic caucus. This is still a very difficult budget and there is still a lot of pain in this budget that the governor’s proposed.”
But, Sarlo said, “Since (Gov. Chris Christie has) thrown his hands up, I’d be more than willing (to sponsor the budget document),” but only if that is what the caucus wants.
“After all the options are presented to the caucus, I will guarantee that we will emerge united on this,” he said. “We will not allow government to be shut down.”
Sarlo and the Democrats had the option last year to draw up their own budget, as they do this year – regardless of Christie’s reaction to the court decision in the Abbott case – but last year they passed on it, with Buono and a few others clamoring for it.
Sarlo said he’s not pre-empting state Sen. President Steve Sweeney, (D-3), who had no comment on the subject Wednesday, by acknowledging that writing the budget may be the best option. “I’m not out in front of Sweeney at all,” he said. “With the governor now punting…we’d be more than willing to fix the problems that he’s created.”
Sweeney’s spokesman also did not respond to requests for comment today on the matter.