Lawmakers react to Treasury budget appearance along party lines

TRENTON – Reaction to Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff’s appearance Thursday before the Assembly Budget Committee broke down along party lines, with GOP members applauding the administration’s budget proposals, and Democrats – though appreciative of the difficult task the treasurer handles – finding fault with some of the priorities.

Republican Chris Brown, the panel’s newest member, praised the fact the state will make a $1.6 billion pension payment, the largest in  history, as it cuts into what once was a $121 billion unfunded liability.

Calling the figures “scary’’ and “staggering,’’ he said he only wished they could accelerate the process and get the state ever more quickly on better footing.

And fellow Republican Tony Bucco applauded the reduced reliance on non-recurring resources, from about 13 percent in fiscal year 2010 to about 3 percent in the fiscal year 2014 budget.

But Democrat Troy Singleton raised questions about a budgeted $60 million for undefined legal settlements, questioning the idea of assuming revenue from such areas that are uncertain.

He also raised questions about the average salaries of the jobs created in the state over the last year, pointing out the Office of Legislative Services said in the morning the “vast majority’’ were in the lower-income scale, but state economist Charles Steindel said that it’s “hypothetical” at this point and the state doesn’t know the actual salaries being generated.

Steindel also said the state is projecting the jobless rate to average 9 percent for this year, and hopefully drop to about 7 percent next year, and gradually move down, with job growth expected to be about the same, about 1.5 percent this year and 1.75 percent next year.

Lawmakers react to Treasury budget appearance along party lines