To follow up on of one our previous posts, has reported that the New Jersey Assembly passed several bills yesterday to combat the revenue shortfalls plaguing the State’s finances and scrutinize corporate tax breaks.  The legislation would force the Governor to collaborate on revenue forecasts and plan for shortfalls, clearly identify any new source of revenue over $1 million, and effectively prepare report cards on economic development programs.

Included in the package is a budget reform bill (A4326) that would create a joint legislative and executive advisory board to predict the tax dollars that will flow into State coffers.  That bill passed 42-31.  The Governor would keep his power to certify revenues, but he would have to explain any differences between his revenues and the advisory board’s.  When actual tax collections fail to live up to forecasts, Governor Chris Christie has slashed spending to balance the budget.  Last year, he cut more than $2 billion in expected payments to public worker pensions.

Christie has amassed a poor record on predicting revenues, said Analilia Mejia, executive director of New Jersey Working Families Alliance.  “The reality has been that we have very high, sometimes you would argued unrealistic, budget projections, that on the front end facilitate additional giveaways to corporations, additional giveaways to those who need it less, additional tax breaks to the most wealthy.  And then when it’s time to pay the pieper, the budget has to be balanced on the backs of working families and workers,” she said.

In addition to speeding up monthly revenue reports, which often arrive too late for the Legislature to effectively react to them, Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Gary Schaer (D-Passaic) said, the bill requires the Governor to prepare for shortfalls of more than 3 percent.  Another bill (A3311) requiring the Governor to spell out in his budget message any new revenue sources that will more than $1 million passed the Assembly 72-0.

Corporate tax breaks would receive greater scrutiny under a bill (A939), which heads to the Governor’s desk after a 43-31 vote, strengthening the reporting requirements for these economic development programs. “There needs to be better data to assess the success of these multi-billion dollar programs and whether they’re paying off for the State’s economy,” said Gordon MacInnes, President of New Jersey Policy Perspective.  “We need to have much more information on what is the single arrow in New Jersey’s quiver to try and crawl out of the recession.”

The speakers urged Christie to sign the bills, which they said fit with his campaign promises to overhaul fiscal responsibility and transparency in Trenton.  “He said he was going to turn Trenton upside down,” Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) said.  “This should be part of it.”

Please continue to check this blog periodically for updates regarding these bills.