TRENTON — Prompted by repeated credit downgradings and a series of poor budget forecasts that have hindered the state’s economy in recent years, the Assembly Budget Committee today passed legislation that aims to reform the legislature’s annual appropriations process.
The bill (A-4326), sponsored by committee chairman and Assemblyman Gary Shaer (D-36), would make more transparent and publicly available information that the executive and legislative branches consider while enacting the state’s annual appropriations act, as well as modernize methods for revenue estimating and reporting, executive presentation of budget recommendations, revenue certification and budget contingency planning.
The bill comes about as Gov. Chris Christie continue to face scrutiny over inaccurate revenue projections, which experts say the Republican’s administration has routinely overestimate. Those missed projections have led to other economic issues, including were the sizable cuts Christie decided to make to the state’s public pension and benefit payments payments over the last two years.
Shaer, however, argued that while a Republican may be occupying the governor’s office, the legislation is not about partisan politics.
“This bill is an attempt at transparency, it is an attempt at bipartisan, it is an attempt to make whoever sits in that seat accountable,” Shaer said.
The legislation would establish a three-member advisory board that includes legislative and executive branch representatives to provide revenue forecasting advice for budget purposes. It would also expand the state’s monthly revenue reporting requirement to include the Property Tax Relief Fund and the Casino Revenue Fund, while requiring that the monthly reports be transmitted to the Senate president, the Assembly speaker, the chairs of the respective Appropriation and Budget committees, the state treasurer, the state auditor and posted online on the official website of the Division of Budget and Accounting in the Department of the Treasury for the duration of three consecutive fiscal years.
Republicans on the panel expressed some skepticism over the measure.
“If we can all agree that lower spending and lower taxes is part of the mix, then I think we can get something done here,” said Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-26).