Confronted with Uncomfortable Fiscal Truths, the Administration Again Attacks the Messenger

MacInnes, who has served in both the Assembly and Senate, and run NJN, is president of New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP) – promoted by Rosi

“David Rosen has been persistently negative and persistently wrong about the state’s revenues, and his analysis today is no exception.” – Gov. Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak

David Rosen, the Office of Legislative Services’ (OLS) budget expert, is paying the price for doing his job. The issue is the FY 2013 budget and whether the revenues projected when the budget was signed in June are holding up. If they’re not, then there is a danger that the state will end the year without a surplus that is mandated by the Constitution.

Well, they’re not holding up. What David Rosen reported to the Senate Budget Committee last week was the result of simple addition. He took the administration’s five monthly reports on actual tax collections since June and added the final surplus generated by the FY 2012 budget, which was $250 million less than projected. The sum is more than $700 million. The surplus projected for June 2014 is less than $700 million – ergo there is no surplus.

Since we still have seven months of tax collections to be reported, some legislators (Republicans) and the administration suggest that it’ll all work out in the end. It might, but that doesn’t mean that the Budget Committee shouldn’t be pointing out the problem and asking for suggested remedies.

David Rosen refused to predict. When pressed, he pointed out that all the information available is contrary to the “spectacular” recovery that would have to occur for this deficit to be corrected by June 30. Example: if revenues stay on the course they’ve taken since March 2012 (they’re up 0.2 of one percent over the prior year), the deficit will be around $2 billion. If it’s even close to $2 billion, or even $1.5 billion, everyone would be better served if action were taken sooner rather than crossing one’s fingers and waiting for the later tax collection reports before cuts are made.

Facts matter. Facts that have been released by the administration should not be used to personally insult and challenge the competence of the person using those facts.

Yes, it’s an election year (when isn’t it?). Yes, Democrats are likely to produce their own story of how it’s going. The fact that they were in on the decision to accept a very rosy scenario about revenues does not mean that they can’t raise a question or two now that that scenario has been shattered.

One can guess, estimate, project and hope about tax collections between now and June, but that does not approximate the same confidence as the collections that are already in and counted. The trend is not encouraging. The economy limps along a positive path nationally, but New Jersey lags far behind. David Rosen did his job, now the legislature and administration should do theirs.  

It would help if the Treasurer would meet with the budget committee to discuss the numbers and what steps the administration would take to address the disappearing surplus.  

Comments (2)

  1. ken bank

    How different it might have been had Morris County Democrats accepted Chris Christie’s bid to run as a Democrat against John Dorsey instead of Gordon MacInnes, who eventually beat Dorsey.

    This episode simply illustrated that Chris Christie was more opportunist than ideologue, which is no surprise to anybody who has followed his career the last twenty years.

  2. deciminyan

    As explained at the Senate Budget Committee, by the time the shortfall is definitized, there are only a few options left for the Governor. Much of the fiscal year’s money will already have been spent. The big ticket items remaining will be the pension payment and the homestead rebate program. What will Chris Christie do? Of course, there are better options, but don’t expect the governor to consider them.


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