"As long as we are not chased from our words we have nothing to fear. As long as our utterances keep their sound we have a voice. As long as our words keep their sense we have a soul." -- Edmond Jabes, from The Book of Yukel, Return to the Book

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

How to build a budget without asking for real sacrifice

While Tom Moran's full-on man-crush for the governor continues in today's Star-Ledger, and Gov. Chris Christie begins his annual tour of the state to promote his budget

How exactly has the governor balanced this budget?

-- He plans to conduct his annual raid on the clean energy fund
-- He is planning to delay the payout on property tax credits for three months, pushing its budget impact into a different fiscal year
-- And, of course, the one-shot plug-ins:
Nevertheless, Sidamon-Eristoff, who was forced to rely on $1.2 billion in nonrecurring revenues to fill a budget gap last May when tax collections for FY12 and FY13 started coming in $676 million short, acknowledged yesterday that he would have to use $1.07 billion in one-shot revenues in the FY14 budget.
NJSpotlight chart
Click to enlarge.
The treasurer confirmed that the state would once again take $150 million in Clean Energy funds that are supposed to go to energy efficiency programs to balance the budget, but otherwise refused to say what the other one-shot revenues are, saying that they would be included in the full budget that will be released in a week or two. Treasury spokesman William Quinn said last night he did not know what the other one-shots were.

Clearly, one of the additional one-shot revenues is the elimination of the $376 million in pay-as-you-go transportation capital funding that was promised by Christie to reduce future debt when the five-year Transportation Trust Fund extension was approved in December 2011. Sidamon-Eristoff said the state had realized higher proceeds than expected on two previous transportation bond sales, which would enable the state to provide the full $1.6 billion state match for federal transportation dollars without relying either on pay-as-you-go financing or further borrowing.

Another one-shot evidently is the treasurer’s decision to tap $75 million of the expected $375 million end-of-year surplus to help balance next year’s budget. The $300 million surplus that remains is less than half of the $640 million surplus that the state listed on July 1 at the start of the current fiscal year and represents less than 1 percent of the proposed $32.846 billion budget.
One thing has bothered me since the first Christie budget. The state's press corps has continued to give him credit for local property tax caps that have held down property taxes. Yes, tax growth  have been held in check to some degree, but at what cost? The answer is the layoff of municipal workers, teachers and the like. That may be an acceptable bargain, but we haven't had that discussion. We really need to.

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