EDISON – Senator Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex) today charged that Governor Christie’s proposal to impose a $10,000 fine for the unauthorized release of information on state revenues is an “unconscionable attempt to keep the truth about the state budget from the citizens of New Jersey.”
“Governor Christie came into office promising ‘fiscal transparency’ and signed an executive order requiring his Treasury Department to issue revenue reports on the 10th business day of each month,” Buono noted. “But now that revenues are coming in below the governor’s wildly optimistic projections, revenue numbers are suddenly a state secret and the governor wants total control over the flow of information.
“Whether New Jersey taxes are coming in as expected should not be kept secret from New Jersey taxpayers and it should not be kept secret from New Jersey legislators who are responsible for ensuring that the state budget remains in balance. Like the United States Constitution, the 1947 New Jersey Constitution established a government with three equal branches. It did not establish an imperial governorship.”
Buono, who questioned the accuracy of the Christie administration’s revenue projections during the June debate on the budget bill, asked David Rosen, Budget Officer for the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services, to provide an analysis of how much the Christie administration missed on its Fiscal Year 2012 revenue projections.
She pointed out that she asked Rosen for his analysis in a letter written on August 16th – 27 days after the deadline set for the release of the June revenue numbers in Christie’s Executive Order No. 8, which required the release of the June numbers by July 20th and the release of all other revenue reports by the 10th business day of each month.
Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak defended the governor’s proposal for a $10,000 fine for the unauthorized release of revenue information as necessary because he said there was concern over the “premature release or abuse of information in instances where it is preliminary, subject to change and can otherwise create false impressions in the financial markets,” Buono noted.
“Yet at the same time that Governor Christie was attacking Dr. Rosen’s report that New Jersey revenues were coming in below projections, his own treasurer was telling Wall Street investment bankers that Dr. Rosen was right and that the state could be facing a ‘significant’ shortfall,” Buono said. “Obviously, Governor Christie’s concern is not what the financial markets think, but what the voters and legislators think.”
Buono renewed her request to Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff to release the June revenue report so that the Legislature’s budget committees can determine how much the state’s budget surplus has been reduced by the end-of-year shortfall.
“For the treasurer to suggest that the state will not know the final June numbers until completion of the final audit in December is disingenuous,” said Buono, a former Senate Budget Committee chair.
“The treasurer already knows with reasonable certainty what the final number is likely to be. We need to know the magnitude of the fiscal shortfall we are facing, especially now that combined July-August revenues have come in $100 million below the treasurer’s projections,” she said.
Buono questioned whether Christie is taking his cue from Mitt Romney, for whom he will be campaigning in New Hampshire tomorrow.
“Governor Christie’s budget games mirror Mr. Romney’s principles towards his personal wealth: a general disdain for transparency; a belief that the rules set for everyone else just don’t apply to him; and making a $10,000 bet that he won’t be called to account for his shenanigans,” she said. “It’s time for Governor. Christie to stop the games, end the secrecy and level with New Jersey voters.”