Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Dispute over Gap in State Budget

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Dispute over Gap in State Budget

Article excerpt

Just weeks after Governor Christie lowered his revenue forecast for the state's current $33 billion budget by $251 million, a non- partisan legislative fiscal analyst said his new estimate is likely still too high.

The governor could be off by $217 million - and by $526 million over the next 15 months, said David Rosen, budget expert for the Office of Legislative Services. Rosen was counting the remaining three months of this fiscal year and Christie's projections for the next one.

Any gap between what the state spends and what it takes in has to be offset by spending cuts or other adjustments, because the state constitution requires the governor to maintain a balanced budget. And right now the surplus fund that could be used to hedge against any gap is little more than $300 million.

"That much of an error becomes significant when you have a built- in surplus that's only 1 percent," Rosen told members of the state Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

"You don't have much coverage," Rosen said. "When you've got a small surplus, then you've got to make corrections on the fly in order to cope."

Christie, a Republican beginning his second term, has had to make midyear budget adjustments in several years to help offset overestimations in revenue projections. Those adjustments have included the roughly $700 million in cuts announced this year and last year's delay of about $400 million in property tax relief.

His latest state spending plan calls for tax collections to grow by more than 5 percent through the end of June 2015 to support a $34.45 billion budget, the richest in state history.

Both Rosen and state Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff appeared before the budget committee Tuesday to discuss the revenue forecast and other fiscal issues for the first time since Christie proposed his latest budget in February. …

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