Press Release

Dozens of Democracy and Fair Budget Organizations Demand Budget Transparency, Public Input on Closed-Door Process

As budget clock looms, members of We The People coalition and For The Many NJ urge lawmakers to publicly release budget bill 72 hours before hearing and support budget transparency measures.

Published on Jun 24, 2024 in Tax and Budget

The We the People Coalition and the For the Many NJ, each representing more than 50 organizations across the state, called on state lawmakers to end the annual backroom deals and last-minute scramble to write the state budget bill. With a $58 billion budget touching on every public investment from schools and hospitals to public transit and environmental protection, New Jersey residents deserve a say in how the money is spent before a rushed vote at the eleventh hour.

With only 6 days remaining before the constitutional budget deadline on June 30, the groups called for disclosure of the budget bill text at least 72 hours before a budget committee vote at a public hearing with testimony, giving the public (and the legislators themselves) time to analyze the several-hundred-page bill before it is voted on.

“With erosions in public accountability after the changes to election contributions and now public records, this state cannot withstand even more backroom dealing without public accountability,” said Antoinette Miles, New Jersey Director of Working Families Alliance. “We must replace a system that benefits political insiders with an open process that includes the voices of communities that this budget is supposed to serve.”

“When lawmakers can spend billions of taxpayer dollars through a totally opaque process, that only benefits special interests with influence and access,” said Peter Chen, Senior Policy Analyst at New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP). “Budgets are moral documents, and a budget written and voted on in secrecy without public input will not reflect the values of the public.”

Last year, New Jersey Policy Perspective called for new reforms to end the annual brinkmanship: A requirement that the budget bills be posted no later than June 1; a 14-day window between when the budget bill is posted and its second reading in committee; and multi-year projections for revenues and expenditures to reduce reliance on one-off gimmicks and allow for better long-term planning.

“We have seen how procrastinated budget bills lead to votes with little to no public feedback and the legislators voting on bills they have not even seen,” said Jesse Burns, Executive Director, League of Women Voters of New Jersey. “If we believe in a robust democracy, that has to include meaningful public feedback on the biggest single bill of the year. The people of this state deserve better and are sick and tired of Trenton’s anti-transparency antics.”

“The opaque budget process has helped entrenched special interests instead of the working-class and middle-class New Jersey residents who form the foundation of the state,” said Nedia Morsy, Make the Road NJ. “The budget is a moral document that directly impacts immigrant and working class people. When transparency is upheld to keep working class people engaged we all benefit.”

“The public has every right to shape how public dollars are spent. The Legislature must make the state budget proposal public at least 72 hours before a vote is held and hold a hearing to take feedback from the public on the proposal. It’s one of many ways the Legislature can restore meaningful public participation in the budget making process,” said Dena Mottola Jaborska, Executive Director, New Jersey Citizen Action.

“With just a week to go, the Legislature has yet to give any indication of where it is in the budget process. New Jersey schools continue to be saddled with draconian cuts to their budgets, so districts need to know what funding they will have as soon as possible. We deserve to have a budget process that is efficient and transparent, just as our children deserve a ‘thorough and efficient’ education as guaranteed in New Jersey’s state constitution,” said Julie Larrea Borst, Executive Director, Save Our Schools NJ (SOSNJ).

# # # #

For The Many NJ is a statewide coalition of more than 40 organizations working to expand funding for essential services and improve budget practices to meet current and future needs, especially for communities that have been historically left behind.

We The People NJ is a statewide coalition of over a dozen labor, advocacy, and grassroots groups dedicated to advancing an equitable and more inclusive democracy by engaging and empowering underrepresented communities and building sustainable power among all New Jerseyans.