NJPP Action Agenda: The Invisible Budget Hides Spending Choices

You can read the state budget cover to cover and still not know how much state government costs. You won’t know because, unlike most states, New Jersey doesn’t keep track of a crucial area of spending.

When most people think of a state budget, they think of transactions that are basically simple: The state pays someone to do something, buys a particular item or gives out the dollars that start or maintain a program. But, in addition to these direct payments, another equally important type of government spending comes in the form of various tax exemptions written into the law. The technical term is “tax expenditures.” They are also called tax preferences because they represent preferential treatment.

Though most states make this information public, it’s not in New Jersey’s state budget document, or anywhere else that is readily accessible. Millions, maybe billions of dollars of spending come from this “invisible budget.”

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