TRENTON - New Jersey will spend more than $30 billion next year on state government, but how the money is spent will be the topic of debate over the next few months.
New Jersey is not a poor state and revenue appears to be slightly up. The problem is the state is not just covering this year's costs, but also old debt. A good example would be transportation.
"We can squeeze through 2016 but if 2016 goes forward as laid out in the budget, we begin 2017 with no cash balance and no source of revenue to pay for the unfinished projects from ‘16, ‘15, ‘14 and ‘13,“ says the Legislature’s budget expert, Dr. David Rosen.
That's good news if you're looking to avoid a gas tax increase, for now, but at least this year the Legislature and Gov. Chris Christie agree on the amount of money to spend. In past years, bad predictions meant coming up with lots of cash on short notice. But don't celebrate just yet.
"At this point has the administration developed a contingency plan to address the $1.6 billion judgment that we know has already been adjudicated?" asks New Jersey Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff.
A judge recently ruled the governor had to come up with the rest of the pension payment he shorted because he says we don't have the money. The treasurer says they're thinking of a plan.
"Coming up with $1.6 billion in the last few months of the budget year would impose incredible and I believe universally unacceptable impacts on our residents here in New Jersey," says Sidamon-Eristoff.
The state's fiscal year runs from July to June. The Legislature must send a budget to the governor and have him sign it by June 30.