TRENTON – In comments to the press after a Monday meeting of the state Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, committee chair state Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-36) sounded a serious tone for the looming state budget battle in the weeks ahead.
“This is my twelfth year on the budget committee, and it’s one of the worst I’ve ever seen,” said Sarlo. “It’s late in the game – you have both the current fiscal year, and the proposed fiscal year, which are constitutionally out of balance. We need to balance two budgets in the next two weeks.”
Sarlo noted what he believed is the crux of the issue regarding the passage of the next state budget – the question of the pension payment.
Gov. Chris Christie announced last month that to deal with the state budget crisis, he wants to reduce a $1.6 billion pension payment the state was scheduled to make before June 30 to $696 million by executive order and slash a $2.25 billion payment that was set for next year to $681 million, a move that the governor will seek approval for from the Democratic-controlled Legislature. Christie did not immediately offer any other alternatives to shore up the state’s combined $2.7 billion projected fiscal shortfall for this soon-to-be completed and the next fiscal year.
“It all revolves around the pension payment – when the payment will be made and how much. I think that once that decision is resolved, everything else will fall in place,” Sarlo said. “But nobody should run out to celebrate. This is going to be a difficult budget.”