The Senate Budget Committee discussion of the Democrats’ budget proposal opened with a sharp give and take between two senators.
“This is a balanced budget that resets the priorities in New Jersey,’’ said Chairman Sen. Paul Sarlo. He emphasized that the Millionaire’s Tax is a separate bill, and said this budget would cut taxes.
“All of our schools and all of our children should get the education they deserve,’’ he said. He said the $30.6 billion budget would be balanced, reduce taxes, channel funds to “all of our schools,’’ as well as to senior citizens.
It reflects an additional $1.18 billion in spending over the proposal laid out by the governor in March, a detailed outline of the budget released late last night shows.
“The governor’s office has made it clear where he stands, and today we mark out where we stand,’’ Sarlo said. “We talk about equal sacrifice; this is equal sacrifice.’’
Sen. Anthony Bucco said, though, that this Democratic proposal is based on overly optimistic “assumptions,’’ and will increase the state budget by more than 7 percent.
He stressed the state has to learn to live within its means and said talk of the Millionaire’s Tax is germane to the budget talk.
Sarlo, however, reiterated that the budget bill, S4000, contains no tax hike. Bucco responded again that it is based on inaccurate assumptions.
But Sarlo treated it as an accusation and demanded Bucco show where S4000 has a tax increase. To which Bucco kept returning to the fact the Millionaire’s Tax is awaiting Senate Budget Committee action later in the day and that the two can’t be separated.
The Democratic plan uses an additional $724 million left over from the current fiscal year appropriation as well as nearly $500 million in additional revenue collected this year.
Revenue expectations questioned
Sen. Kevin O’Toole cautioned the committee about the wisdom of the budget proposal of the Democrats including $50 million in a lawsuit settlement that is not even assured yet.
Sarlo responded that the Democrats’ budget includes the fact the state will receive approximately $50 million in a pending settlement of a multistate lawsuit over bank fraud. He said they feel confident, since the talks have going on for some time, and the alternative for the defendants in the case could be much more expensive.