The trial of Wayne Bryant gave some news today that is sure to have people involved in NJ Politics buzzing:
Masked by an obscure state budget account dedicated to property tax relief, key state lawmakers were given millions of taxpayer dollars to hand out to their constituents as they pleased, testimony in the corruption trial of former Senate Budget Committee Chairman Wayne Bryant revealed today.
The $40 million Property Tax Assistance and Community Development grants program lawmakers added to the state budgets in 2004 and 2005, was parceled out directly to individual lawmakers for them to spend on pet projects, George LeBlanc, Democratic budget officer, testified.
Bryant, a Camden County Democrat, was allotted $4 million from the fund. Senate Majority Leader Bernard F. Kenny, Jr., (D-Hudson), was also given $4 million from the fund, which he shared with other lawmakers, LeBlanc testified. Both Kenny and Bryant left the Senate last year.
The story goes on:
The testimony contrasts with claims by lawmakers that individual grant recipients had to apply to the state Treasurer for funding from the $40 million pool, and that grants were awarded competitively.
“To my knowledge, individual legislators were the deciders,” LeBlanc told jurors. “They were the ones who designated which entities would receive amounts of money from the accounts.”
When asked about the revelation, Senate President Dick Codey offered no comment on advice from his lawyers, while Speaker Roberts put out this statement through Derek Roseman in the Assembly Majority Office:
“We’re not aware of the specifics of today’s testimony, but in recent years we’ve implemented new rules and regulations that open up the budget process more than ever before and let the public see every requested budget change and exactly who is proposing it.”
You wonder where this will go next.