As reported by NJ.com, after tax collections came up short last spring and plunged Governor Chris Christie’s state budget into chaos, lawmakers say bug changes are needed on how the State prepares a spending plan and shares information about it to the public. Sponsor Gary Schaer (D-Passaic), chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee that approved the bill, said the State needs to improve how it forecasts how much revenue the State will take in, plan for sudden shortfalls, and improve transparency. “Year after year, this State’s dismal budgetary planning has driven us into crisis,” Schaer said in a statement. “The people of New Jersey deserve a budget process that is comprehensive in its revenue forecasting and contingency planning.”
Among the bill’s many proposals is a requirement that the Governor create an emergency plan to cut spending or create revenue should tax collections fall short. Specifically, the bill calls on the Governor to prepare for a shortfall of 3 percent of the State’s total revenue. When tax collections cam up short last spring, Christie cut $2.4 billion in pension payments to keep the budget in balance. Christie’s administration had overestimated how much money it expected to flow into State coffers. This bill would also force his administration to collaborate with the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services to arrive at that estimate.
Schaer said the bill also improves the administration’s monthly reporting throughout the year by requiring the administration to release data on tax collections sooner and includes updates on the Property Tax Relief and Casino Revenue funds. “In prior budgets we’ve been told there’s not enough money to fund something within a few months of the budget ending. We’re simply handed the data and said ‘here’, Schaer said. “The sooner you get the data, the sooner you are able to act upon it.” Under the bill, the State would also be required to compare some recommended spending levels for some programs, such as pensions, school and municipal aid, to the levels set by statute. In addition, the bill provides for the State to develop a searchable database for the public to explore State spending.
Please continue to check this blog periodically for updates regarding this bill. As you all well know, the poor revenue forecasting in prior years directly led to Governor Christie slashing the payments slated for the pension systems. Given this bill seeks to address the poor budgetary planning, all New Jersey Public Safety Officers should keep apprised of this bill and the status of the same going forward.