Just weeks after New Jersey’s current budget went into effect, a dispute is simmering over projections of a possible $10.5 billion shortfall when officials start compiling next year’s spending plan.
The Assembly Budget Committee plans to meet this week to get some answers on the state’s long-term outlook.
The budget brouhaha began in late July, when the Office of Legislative Services, the legislature’s research arm, issued a report that said the state could be facing a $10.5 billion deficit for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2011.
“The ($10.5 billion) number is completely fake and doesn’t understand the new reality, which is I’m not going to approve spending that goes over” the current budget, Christie said.
Legislative Services, though, noted that many big-ticket items that contributed to the current year’s budget deficit still will be in place next year. Those include $3.5 billion for pensions, $2.3 billion to fully fund schools and $2.1 billion for rebates.
“This is obviously a big concern that needs to be addressed,” said Greenwald, D-Voorhees.
To plug this year’s deficit, Christie slashed aid to schools and municipalities, suspended property tax rebates and skipped a $3 billion payment to state employee pension funds.
Greenwald, though, said the state cannot continue to rely on such fiscal maneuvering.
“Real change and plans to stimulate our economy, create jobs and put people back to work are what’s needed,” he said. “We cannot continue to do the same old things.”
“There are systemic issues with budgeting that (the legislature has) faced year in and year out, but people kept passing legislation despite knowing that we didn’t have the money for it at the time and/or down the road,” said Assemblyman Joe Malone, the chamber’s GOP lawmaker on the budget. “We kept living high on the hog, but the hog is gone now.”