Depleted Rainy Day Fund Shows How Broken the State Budget Process Is

Lawmakers should know exactly what is in the budget and how it will be enacted before they vote on it or sign it into law.

Published on Jul 2, 2021 in Tax and Budget

Earlier today, NJ Spotlight News reported that the state Treasury has drained New Jersey’s rainy day fund and transferred the balance of $2.2 billion into the state’s general fund. This transfer was a surprise to state lawmakers, the press, and advocates alike, who all celebrated the budget bill for replenishing New Jersey’s historically depleted reserves. The shocking revelation should come as no surprise, as state lawmakers voted on the budget bill a mere 11 minutes after the bill text was made public. In response to the depleted rainy day fund, New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP) releases the following statement.

Brandon McKoy, President, NJPP:

“The now empty rainy day fund is Exhibit A in how broken the state’s budget process is. Every single lawmaker voted on a budget bill that had more than a billion dollars tucked away in reserves. We are now finding out, for reasons that are not entirely clear, those reserves have already been depleted. Regardless of why, the fact is that one of the more positive developments of this budget no longer exists, which takes some lustre off of the finished project. This is yet another reason why having a more considered, transparent, and inclusive budget process is absolutely essential. Lawmakers should know exactly what is in the budget and how it will be enacted before they vote on it or sign it into law, and that requires not rushing and making mistakes.

“A strong rainy day fund can make the difference between falling back on drastic budget cuts and advancing equity with strong investments. The next time New Jersey faces a budget shortfall, which it will, lawmakers will once again cut funding for programs that low-income children, seniors, and families rely on, just as they have in the past when the rainy day fund was depleted. Let this sleight of hand serve as a reminder: This insider’s game that incentivizes politics and short-term decisions will never allow us to live up to our stated values of racial and economic justice. We must raise the standards of state budgeting by embracing transparency and proven best practices to build an economy that truly works for the many, not a chosen few.”

For more on this year’s state budget, read the latest NJPP report, Shining a Light on New Jersey’s FY 2022 Budget:

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