Philadelphia Inquirer -
Budget gurus for the Christie administration and the Democratic-controlled Legislature are set to say how much money New Jersey will bring in this year – and unlike last year their views will likely align, lawmakers say.
The projections, which Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff and Office of Legislative Services director David Rosen will present to the Assembly Budget Committee on Monday, are important because they help determine how much money lawmakers and the governor can spend in the next fiscal year, which starts July 1.
Divergent revenue projections also played a part in the governor’s decision last year to cut payments to the state public pension system, which angered Democrats as well as many of the state’s nearly 700,000 public sector pensioners.
This year, though, Democratic Budget Committee Chairman Gary Schaer says he expects the projections will be “much more realistic,” and Republican budget officer Declan O’Scanlon says he expects revenues to be on target this year. He attributed the difference last year to federal tax cuts on the wealthiest citizens that expired in 2013.
Democrats and Republicans aren’t predicting a significant difference in revenue projections, but they’re still at odds over how much to pay into the public pension fund and whether to increase taxes on gasoline to shore up the transportation trust fund.
The testimony comes as Democrats are pushing to change how revenue estimates are calculated.
Currently, the treasury calculates estimates, which the administration uses to craft its budget. (Legislators order up their own projections, but the governor is not obligated to abide by them.) The Democratic-controlled Assembly passed a bill last week that would put the revenue projection power into the hands of a three-person board with representatives from executive and legislative branches.
Republicans opposed the bill, saying the ability to certify revenues should rest with the executive.
“The governor has to be accountable about those certifications,” O’Scanlon said. “He admitted when he was wrong. Nobody gives him credit when he is right.”