Public to get a clearer view of N.J. budget
By ADRIENNE LU
For the first time in recent history, state lawmakers will be required to attach their names to eleventh-hour budget appropriations — ending the anonymous system that last year added more than $300 million in spending.
New rules such as posting budget requests on the Internet will make the process more open, supporters say, as long as the regulations work as intended.
Public hearings will also be held after the requests have been added, unlike in years past when even most legislators didn’t get a chance to read the complete budget until after they voted for it.
Lawmakers hope the changes will make the budget process more transparent, prompted in part by a federal probe into pork-barrel spending, also known as “Christmas tree” grants.
Also for the first time this year, lawmakers will be required to indicate in requests for additional funding whether they or any family members, including spouses, receive any compensation from the recipient.
Another key change will be in the time frame for the negotiations. In previous years, lawmakers struggled to meet the statutory deadline of completing the budget by June 30, which often meant budget drafts being released in the wee hours of the morning.
This year, legislators hope to have drafts finished a few weeks before the deadline, to allow everyone adequate time to read and understand the documents and for time for public hearings.