TRENTON – Democratic lawmakers are preparing to pounce on the governor after his decision to rework legislation that sought to make it a requirement for the administration to post monthly revenue reports.
Gov. Chris Christie conditionally vetoed legislation Friday that Democrats say would have held the governor’s feet to the fire by requiring him to report what’s already been laid out in his own executive order.
In his veto message, the governor added language to the bill that would impose a $10,000 penalty for the “unauthorized” dissemination of state revenue figures.
The bill, A2885/S2095, would have mandated monthly reporting on major state budget funds and disclosure of actual revenues compared to anticipated revenues. The bill would have required the report be issued by the 10th business day of each month.
“This bill essentially mirrored the governor’s executive order that he hasn’t complied with and updated a law that hadn’t been revised in decades,” said chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee, Assemblyman Vincent Prieto (D-32) in a statement.
Prieto, who called the conditional veto “inexplicable on many levels,” said the bill mirrored requirements put forth in Christie’s Executive Order No. 8 – which the governor issued and signed shortly after taking office.
The order requires the Treasury Department to publish detailed monthly reports on state revenues by the 10th business day.
The governor commended the bill’s sponsors in his veto message for “their interest in fiscal transparency, an issue that has been an important priority of (his) administration,” and added language to the bill that would prohibit the unauthorized dissemination of the state’s financial information.
The governor’s reworked bill would put in place a $10,000 penalty imposed against “any purposeful and unauthorized disclosure to the public of any information that is required by the director to be included in the comprehensive annual financial report or in the summarized monthly report of the General State Fund, the Property Tax Fund and the Casino Revenue Fund.”
“The markets are too fragile and financial portfolios too reliant on accurate information in the marketplace for games to be played. I accept responsibility for transparency in my administration’s financial reporting along with the responsibility to protect those relying on accurate financial information,” Christie wrote in his CV message.
The new language comes after the governor’s office has been critical of the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services for, it has claimed, playing politics by disseminating budget information to lawmakers, which was then in turn leaked to media outlets.
Prieto blasted the governor for sending them what he said amounts to an attempt by the governor to “restrict the flow of vital public information.”
“I will never allow such a dictatorial plan to ever see the light of day,” Prieto said. “This conditional veto appears to be an attack on the checks-and-balances that are the cornerstone of American democracy.”
The governor’s office, calling Prieto’s statement “dramatic partisan nonsense,” said the premature release of revenue figures amounts to “abuse of information,” said Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak.
“The language of the Governor’s conditional veto is dead on,” Drewniak said in response to the statement.
“We can do transparency in a way that makes sense for modern budgeting, finance and forecasting that does not include the premature release or abuse of information in instances where it is preliminary, subject to change, and can otherwise create false impressions in the financial markets,” he said.