OLS warns of $937M shortfall

TRENTON – New Jersey is staring down the barrel of a $937 million budget shortfall, according to estimates from the

TRENTON – New Jersey is staring down the barrel of a $937 million budget shortfall, according to estimates from the Office of Legislative Services.

The non-partisan office upped its estimate of the state’s looming budget gap from when OLS officials first testified before lawmakers six weeks ago.

David Rosen, OLS’ budget officer, is estimating a $444 million hole in Fiscal Year 2013’s budget and a $492 million revenue shortfall in FY 2014.

“Some revenues have done a bit better than expected, some have done a bit worse,” Rosen said before the Senate Budget and Appropriation Committee on Monday.

“On balance for the major revenues the outlook is marginally more positive than we had expected,” he said.

“However, we are revising our forecasts for energy taxes and the tax on Internet gaming downward by a combined $498 million over the two fiscal years.”

OLS’ estimates for the state’s Casino Revenue Fund are $150 million shy of what the Gov. Chris Christie administration is forecasting.

Additionally, Rosen testified about “significant underperformance of the energy taxes,” telling lawmakers his office is projecting a $348 million revenue shortfall over FY 2013 and FY 2014.

“While we are projecting that total energy tax collections will miss the budget assumption this year by about 16 percent, after the municipal aid accounts receives 100 percent of its $788 million, the on-budget energy tax accounts absorb a 47 percent reduction,” he said.

Rosen also cautioned lawmakers about the administration’s forecast of a $166 million infusion of affordable housing dollars.

Rosen warned between uncertainty over the exact amount of unspent affordable housing dollars, coupled with the court proceedings surrounding the sweeping of the funds, that “there may be substantial risk in assuming the realization” of the funds.

“Department of Community Affairs said that the actual amount would not be known until after the municipalities present information to the Council on Affordable Housing on May 22,” and then, he said, ‘‘Maybe it will not be $164 million, maybe it’s $100 million, maybe it’s $60 million, maybe it’s $50 million,’” Rosen said.

Subsequent to those comments, the Appellate Division of Superior Court issued a stay of the state’s taking of the funds and scheduled oral argument for June 5.

Rosen’s testimony comes ahead of the state Treasurer’s slated appearance before Senate lawmakers later this afternoon.

  OLS warns of $937M shortfall