Schaer, Singleton, McKeon & Burzichelli Discuss The Value of Public Hearings & Comments to the Budget Process

(COLLINGSWOOD) – Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Gary S. Schaer (D-Passaic), Assembly Appropriations Committee Chairman John J. Burzichelli (D-Gloucester), and Assembly Budget Committee Democrats Troy Singleton (D-Burlington) and John F. McKeon (D-Essex) issued a multimedia package Wednesday discussing the value of public hearings to the annual budget process.
The multimedia package consists of commentary from the members on the start of the fiscal year (FY) 2016 Budget deliberations and the value of public comments to the process and audio and a transcript of same.
The video can be accessed directly via our website – www.assemblydems.com – or by pasting the following link into a Web browser: https://vimeo.com/121921706
The audio file is available upon request.
A transcript of comments from the Democratic Budget Committee members is appended below:

Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-Burlington):
“Well, I think it’s integral for our taxpayers to have an idea of how their money is being spent. And the public hearings afford us an opportunity to hear directly from interested parties on the governor’s proposed budget plan. It also guides us as legislators as we try and refine that plan to reflect the values of all New Jerseyans.
“So, each of these public hearings will provide a unique opportunity to hear the voices of the people who actually foot the bill and have an understanding of what matters to them.”

Assemblyman Gary S. Schaer (D-Passaic), Budget Committee Chair:
“The hearings are fundamental to what it is that we do. They’re tremendous assets to our deliberations and they really guide us, in terms of our responsibilities of this great state.
“For example, the governor has proposed in this budget $1.2 billion for the pension plan. We know that as a result of legislation, which he had heralded and championed just a few short years ago, that number should be $2.7 to $2.8 billion. There’s a significant loss in funding the pension plan, which is affecting the state’s credit rating and how it is that we do business.
“We also know, for example, that in the governor’s budget address he failed to speak about a transportation trust fund. One of the most fundamentally important roles that the state plays is ensuring the tremendous road infrastructure so that goods can be delivered and New Jersey fullfill its economic promise.
“Right now, that’s a problem. We don’t know what his suggestions are and we don’t have any money in this budget to prepare for those needs.”

Assemblyman John F. McKeon (D-Essex):
“I’m interested to look at the revenue numbers – that’s the other piece of the budget – to see what actually is going to come in and if those projections are accurate, which they really haven’t been for the last number of years. So, that’s an important and crucial part I’d like to be involved with.
“There are, you know, nooks and crannies of the budget that are going to, again, affect real people, in ways that we might not otherwise be privy to.”

Assemblyman John J. Burzichelli (D-Gloucester), Assembly Appropriations Committee Chair:
“I always remind people that the budget is a document of estimates, because you’re estimating everything. You don’t collect all the money on the first day; you don’t spend all the money on the first day.
“Now, we all know we have economic challenges in the state, as every home does in New Jersey, quite frankly. So, these hearings allow us to try and fine tune priorities. So, if we have an opportunity for movement, we have a sense of what the public would like to see happen and it gives us guidance.”

Schaer:
“I didn’t drive two hours to be here and two hours to go back simply for a perfunctory meeting. This meeting has very real importance to what it is that we will be doing over the next few weeks and months.
“So yes, there are some tremendous, tremendous responses that we get out of theses things; tremendous understandings that we otherwise wouldn’t have. And we applaud the people for coming.”