NJBIA is eyeing greater transparency in the state budget process, noting the public has been virtually shut out of how the Legislature and administration plan to use a more than $10 billion windfall.
Lawmakers last week cancelled public hearings to go over the latest state tax revenue forecasts, which the state treasurer recently revised upward to $5.2 billion. There have also been no public hearings since the state received $6.2 billion in federal COVID-19 relief under the American Rescue Plan passed by Congress.
“The job of an elected official, one of the most important things, is being a good steward of the state’s resources, and when we have an opportunity like this, you would think that there should be a heightened state of attention to transparency (and) open dialogue,” NJBIA President & CEO Michele Siekerka responded when asked by NJ Spotlight News’ John Reitmeyer.
Siekerka said there should be “real hearings where the public can be heard,” instead of a state budget crafted in a backroom that is then rushed through the Legislature without an opportunity for a thorough review and debate. The state Constitution requires New Jersey’s next budget to be adopted by July 1, which is the start of the 2022 fiscal year.
The cancellation of the public hearings on the updated state revenue figures appears to be laying the groundwork for a repeat of last year, when the FY2021 budget containing new taxes and $4.5 billion in borrowing was rushed through the Legislature without discussion.
Both NJBIA and New Jersey Policy Perspective had criticized the lack of transparency in the FY2021 budget process in an op-ed published in NJ.com.