Seven Important Questions We’d Like the Treasurer To Answer at This Week’s Budget Hearings
New Jersey’s treasurer will appear before the Senate and Assembly budget committees this Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss the governor’s proposed budget and present updates on the current budget. Here are seven questions that should be asked and answered during these hearings.
1. Nearly five years after the official end of the Great Recession, why is New Jersey’s job growth so slow, with the state having recovered only 38 percent of the jobs it lost during the recession (compared to 122 percent in New York, 81 percent in Pennsylvania and 93 percent nationwide)?
2. How can this administration continue to claim it hasn’t raised taxes when nearly 500,000 low-income working families have seen their tax bills increase by hundreds of millions of dollars since 2010’s cut to the Earned Income Tax Credit? On top of that, why are nearly 200,000 credits for 2011 and 2012 still being held by the state?
3. If the state’s pension system is actually in dire straits, why would the administration make a policy change that shortchanges it by nearly $250 million this and next year?
4. The administration continues to state that “discretionary spending” in the proposed budget is down by $2.2 billion from 2008, but the largest spending cuts have been to direct property tax relief, higher education and aid to local governments. Why does the administration consider it a point of pride to have drastically cut middle-class priorities?
5. Are there plans to increase heating assistance for low-income New Jerseyans in order to preserve SNAP funding for about 160,000 struggling New Jersey households as well as the influx of federal funds tied to it?
6. The administration clearly overestimated the amount of revenue from internet gambling last spring despite a strong consensus from all independent experts that warned of missing the mark. Why was the projection so far off (it is likely the largest “miss” in state history) and do you even think the now-lower $34 million estimate will be achieved?
7. Other than providing $92 million to help plug this year’s budget deficit, were there any other reasons to give up over $400 million in future tobacco settlement payments? Also, if the current bondholders were willing to pay $96 million up front to enhance the value of their bonds how much money did they actually end up making?