OLS warns N.J. facing $700M revenue shortfall

TRENTON – New Jersey is staring down the barrel of a $700 million revenue shortfall, according to the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services.

David Rosen, OLS’ budget and finance officer, warned Senate lawmakers New Jersey would need “a spectacular revenue acceleration” to hit the governor’s target projections. Revenues would need to grow by nearly 12 percent over the remaining seven months to hit the target, he said.

“The revenue problem is broad. OLS tracks 14 separate revenues in our monthly snapshot [and] through November, each of these revenues is trailing both the executive target and the required annual growth rate,” said Rosen, explaining that Fiscal Year 2013 revenues have missed Gov. Chris Christie’s targets in each of the first five months of FY 2013.

“It is clear that revenue performance so far in the fiscal year has been considerably weaker than the budget assumed, and even somewhat weaker than the lower OLS projection,” he said.

Rosen explained revenues have grown at 0.2 percent for the first five months of the fiscal year.

“If our growth rate were to stay at 0.2 percent, we would have a shortfall of greater than $2 billion,” Rosen said, prefacing his remarks by saying that OLS is not projecting the shortfall to hit that magnitude.

“I don’t think the most likely outcome is that size of a shortfall, [but] I think we’re likely to face a revenue shortfall during this year and it may be significant,” he said.

The state’s two predominant tax sources, income and sales taxes, are down $32 million and $179 million from the governor’s projections, respectively. The third largest revenue source, the corporation business tax, is nearly $80 million below the administration’s targets, he said.

Rosen, who testified before the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, said rebuilding from Superstorm Sandy and the anticipation of higher federal income tax rates on certain income in 2013 could give a boost to the state’s revenue outlook.

Higher federal tax rates on high earners will have a residual effect on certain state collections, he said.

However, Rosen warned lawmakers “nothing in the national or state economic picture suggests that such growth is likely” to reach the nearly 12 percent gains.

State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff was asked to testify at the hearing but was not able to attend due to a scheduling conflict, according to the Treasurer’s office. The committee’s chairman, Sen. Paul Sarlo, (D-36), said he has provided additional dates for the Treasurer to attend and is awaiting his response.

“As we approach the halfway [point] it is a little troubling,” said Sarlo, saying earlier in the hearing that the meeting is not meant to be “a witch hunt.”

"Sit down and shut up!"
—Gov. Chris Christie, to a Hurricane Sandy heckler