Dems express displeasure with higher education commissioner

TRENTON – The chairman of the Senate Budget Committee said he was disappointed the Higher Education commissioner stonewalled the panel Monday during questions regarding projects on the list for the bond act.

Sen. Paul Sarlo said he believes that in general the lawmakers are not opposed to the higher-education construction projects on the list, but they deserve answers regarding the process that allowed institutions with religious purposes to be on the list.

But Commissioner Rochelle Hendricks said that under advice of counsel from the Attorney General’s office she could not answer specifics because of the “deliberative’’ nature of the process.

The Legislature has to take action to approve the list or it becomes official, Sarlo said. 

Earlier during a hearing into the fiscal year 2014 budgets for higher education, Democratic senators pressed for answers from Hendricks regarding two facilities in particular, a yeshiva in Lakewood, and the Princeton Theological Seminary.

Beth Medrash Govoha, in particular, drew questions because it is slated for more than $10 million, but when senators repeatedly sought answers, Hendricks said she would not discuss the matter.

Sen. Nellie Pou sought to question her about projects that did not make the list given to the Legislature, but again, Hendricks said she would not discuss it.

And after the hearing, she would only say that “The process is clear.”

“The list is in their hands,’’ she said in reference to the lawmakers, adding that she hoped to see all of them funded.

But Pou and other senators indicated that they felt the process is not clear at all.

Earlier story:

Dems take issue with 2 religious institutions on bond act project list

 

Dems express displeasure with higher education commissioner