(TRENTON) — Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Gary S. Schaer (D-Passaic) issued a multimedia package Tuesday on the projected $1.1 billion budget hole facing the current (FY 2016) and upcoming (FY 2017) state budgets.
The multimedia package consists of Chairman Schaer’s commentary on the shortfall and audio and a transcript of same.
The audio file is available upon request.
A transcript of Chairman Schaer’s comments is appended below:
Assemblyman Gary S. Schaer (D-Passaic), Assembly Budget Committee Chair:
“So the budget shortfall is projected at $1.1 billion.
“These numbers are proposed by the Office of Legislative Services (OLS) and in my discussions with the treasurer and members of the administration, they seem to be in agreement.
“The amount of money that we’re talking about is considerable. It is considerable and will require that immediate action be taken by the state, number one, to fulfill its responsibility to constitutionally balance the budget for this fiscal year. I think we need to understand, number one, that every household, however difficult it is, tries to put a few dollars away in a rainy day fund. And it’s also a cushion, just in case something happens. These numbers almost entirely eliminate the cushion as we know it and they make a difficult state budget even more difficult.
“There’ll need to be changes in the way that we govern. $1.1 billion, no matter how you count it, is a lot of money. Any kind of spending has got to be examined very gingerly and very cautiously so that we don’t dig ourselves even deeper into a hole.
“We don’t know what this means for the TTF, because sitting in mid-May with the TTF set to expire at the end of June, we have no proposals as of yet. The administration has not been forthcoming in terms of their plan for the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF); how to fix our bridges, how to fix our roads, how to plan for the future. We don’t know what they’re proposing.
“All these things which we take for granted cost a lot of money. The difficulty has not been in determining our priorities. The difficulty is how to meet those needs. Democrats have been arguing for a number of years, really since Governor Christie took office, that the issue is not how we’re spending our money but how we’re getting the money that we get.
“Everything is on the table. Everything needs to be reexamined. We all want to do good things for the people of New Jersey. Those good things include a wide spectrum, a wide range, of interests and concerns. But there’s also an economic reality: you can’t spend more money than you have. You can only borrow so much. And we need to be very mindful and very careful of how it is that we proceed, in terms of setting new priorities and in terms of the priorities that we have now.
“There’s no question that one of the most immediate needs is convincing the governor that there needs to be some significant contemplation of new revenue sources to meet the needs that have been agreed upon historically by both Republicans and Democrats, in terms of the kind of state that we want New Jersey to be and the kind of government that we want New Jersey to have.”