Press Release

For The Many NJ: Lack of Budget Transparency is Unacceptable

Coalition of labor, faith, community, and advocacy organizations slam the lack of transparency in New Jersey’s budget process as lawmakers prepare to vote on a budget bill before it is available to the public.

Published on Jun 26, 2024 in Tax and Budget

Later tonight, New Jersey lawmakers will vote on a $58 billion state budget without having even read the several-hundred-page bill. Year after year, the budget committees vote on the state’s multi-billion dollar spending plan based on only a rough outline of what is included.

Tonight’s vote comes days after dozens of democracy, good governance, and fair budget organizations called on state lawmakers to end the annual backroom deals and last-minute scramble to write the state budget bill. New Jersey residents deserve a say in how the money is spent before a rushed vote at the eleventh hour.

“This lack of transparency is unacceptable and only serves to benefit powerful special interests with lobbyists and influence,” said Eric Benson, Campaign Director of For The Many NJ, a broad-based coalition of more than 40 organizations. “The budget touches the lives of every single person in the state, and members of the public should have at least 72 hours to review the budget before it is passed. Yet under the current system, the lawmakers themselves don’t even have 72 minutes to read it. Some lawmakers may think this is all normal and appropriate, but other states do not operate this way and the people of New Jersey deserve better. We demand a budget process that is transparent and accountable to the people it serves.”

Groups from across the political spectrum have long supported budget transparency and improved accountability. The hectic last-minute rush, often followed by clean-up bills to correct drafting errors, creates problems for all stakeholders who depend on the state budget. It also creates opportunities for lobbyists and special interest groups to sneak in changes at the last minute without scrutiny.

Last year, policy experts from New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP) 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.

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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.