Revenue projections remain sore point between branches of government

TRENTON – The issue of who does a more accurate job of predicting revenues – the Treasury or Office of Legislative Services – remains contentious between the Democrats and the Administration as legislative budget hearings heat up.

Although Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday dismissed OLS, a nonpartisan arm of government, as a tool of the Democrats, OLS Budget Officer David Rosen pointed out to the Assembly Budget Committee today that over the years the OLS and Treasury often have not been that far apart in the context of a multibillion-dollar budget.

For example, Rosen said that as of last May, for fiscal year 2011, OLS was estimating revenues $188 million higher than the administration was projecting.

He acknowledged that OLS’ projection turned out to be about $32 million higher than the final figure, but added that the Administration ended up about $156 million below the mark.

“We were off by $32 million, they were off by $156 million,’’ Rosen said to the committee. “If we were wrong, the administration was slightly more wrong.’’

But Gary Chiusano, (R-24), Sparta, came to the defense of the Administration and the more conservative revenue outlook it used last year in the midst of a still-struggling economy.

“Someone had to make those projections then,’’ he said, bolstering Administration claims from last year’s budget battles that it was more prudent to err on the side of caution.

For fiscal year 2012, according to the latest Treasury numbers, revenues will be about $50 million above what the governor’s office originally certified, OLS’ Rosen told the committee today.

In addition, Rosen told the committee that last year was the first year he could recall that the Administration certified the revenue figures before an appropriations act was introduced.

Usually, he told the committee, it all is subject to discussion between the front office and the Legislature during the budget negotiations.

“The 2012 procedure was different than anything I ever participated in,” Rosen told the Budget Committee.

His comments illustrated the degree of combativeness that has come to exist between the Administration and the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

Revenue projections remain sore point between branches of government