An Assembly budget bill A4326 just passed its committee on party lines (7 Dems: YES and 4 Rep’s: NO), which Christie would want to veto but which both Republican and Democratic legislators should support.
As John Reitmeyer says in NJ Spotlight:
“It calls for more long-range forecasting, contingency planning, and a deeper analysis of what spending is necessary to keep up with state laws and to maintain current services. It would also create a three-person advisory panel that would put forward a revenue forecast each January in advance of the governor’s budget message in February.”
All of these measures strengthen the budgetary process and make it more transparent. In particular, the advisory panel, which would consist of the State Treasurer, the Legislative Budget and Finance Officer, and a third public member, would provide the governor and legislature with advisory consensus forecasts of State revenue, which the current governor has famously over-estimated in the past. The process proposed would provide needed assurance to credit agencies and New Jersey residents that there is more thoughtful budgetary planning.
Needless to say it weakens the governor’s role in creating the budget, but it strengthens the legislature’s role. NJ is generally considered to have a governor with more power than in any other state. It’s time for more balance between the two arms of government. Weak-kneed Republican legislators are cow-towing to their current governor, but they are not representing the best interests of the legislature. The next governor might likely be a Democrat which would only hurt Republican legislators contesting a new budget. Governors come and go. A more more bi-partisan process and one which gives the legislature more ability to interact on the budget would be a significant benefit.
So far no matching bill has been introduced in the Senate nor is there a scheduled date for a full Assembly vote. Will Republicans continue to bend to the current governor’s demands or could they possibly conclude that the bill is in their best interests, as well as the legislature as a body, and the general public? Hope springs eternal.