Treasurer: Economic data hewing more closely to state’s projections

TRENTON – State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff told the Assembly Budget Committee Thursday that the state projects total revenue for fiscal year 2014 of $32.8 billion, an increase of $1.5 billion, or 4.9 percent, over the revised FY13 estimate.

The treasurer sought to present a more upbeat revenue and economic outlook to the panel than was presented earlier by the Office of Legislative Services.

Before the treasurer testified, the partisan statements were made by committee members.

“The financial outlook has improved dramatically from the place it was three and a half years ago,’’ Republican Declan O’Scanlon said. “Much of that is driven by the policies of this administration.”

He referenced, for example, the “disaster’’ that was the pension and benefit system several years ago but which was reformed in 2011.

But Democratic Chair Vincent Prieto said that on the other hand, “Rebates are being pushed into next year.”

“We talk about the reliance on borrowing, about the Transportation Trust Fund,’’ and the fact that pay as you go is not being used as promised, he said.

Sidamon-Eristoff said that, for example, the income tax growth will be 6.5 percent. Projected growth rates for sales, corporation business, and “other’’ taxes are 4.7, 7 and 2 percent, respectively.

He addressed the Transportation Trust Fund issue that the Senate Budget Committee dealt with on Wednesday and the fact they are not using the general fund to support capital transportation programs.

“Given the many competing demands on our budget,’’ he said, “and given the fact that the Transportation Trust Fund will have adequate cash resources  on hand to support the ongoing $1.6 billion annual transportation capital program without resorting to unplanned or additional borrowing,  it makes sense to devote our limited general fund resources to other priorities.”

He maintained that economic data is “trending’’ favorably and that cash collections have begun to hew more closely to the administration’s original projections.

“We are confident in our 4.7 percent growth projection for the next fiscal year,’’ Sidamon-Eristoff said.  He added that they expect to recoup much of the Superstorm Sandy-depressed sales tax loss – over $100 million – before the end of FY13, but timing is uncertain.

And regarding the discussion of premium bonds for transit projects, he emphasized that the use of such a method does not mean the state will pay more interest than it should.

He said their goal is to obtain the “lowest possible true interest cost’’ over the bonds’ life. The sale, he said, will generate more proceeds  than the par amount of bonds sold. All else being equal, he testified, the true interest cost in relation to actual proceeds  will equal the market rate of interest.

Treasurer: Economic data hewing more closely to state’s projections