Two hearings in the Senate and Assembly Budget Committees. Senate on Monday and the Assembly on Tuesday.
These were both interesting, but for different reasons. Testifying were David Rosen from the non-partisan Office of Legislative services or OLS, and State Treasurer David Rousseau. Both men gave the same testimony to the committees on back-to-back days.
Rosen’s revelation was that despite a claim from Governor Corzine that his budget leaves a $500 million surplus, there is actually a structural deficit of $600 million. That would leave a $100 million hole. Asked to explain that discrepancy, Rousseau testified that Rosen had six more weeks of data to look at and realistically a $100 million deficit was statistically speaking, not very much at all.
But the interesting part in the Senate came when new Republican Committee member Joe Pennacchio asked Rousseau about the state investment council which lost NJ pension money by investing in Lehman Brothers. Fireworks erupted when Chairwoman Barbara Buono gaveled him and told Pennacchio that he was “finished.”
In the Assembly, Republicans and Democrats went back and forth several times over taxes. The premise of many of the Republican questions was “with New Jersey being one of the most heavily taxed states in the nation…”
Finally, Chairman Lou Greenwald challenged that basic assumption, which led to a debate over taxation in New Jersey.
Here is the truth: it depends on who you ask. Everyone agrees that NJ has some of the highest property taxes in the nation. But some surveys show that NJ is the highest taxed and the most un-business-friendly environment in the whole country. But Democrats argue that if you measure the taxes people pay as a percentage of income…New Jeresy is actually below the national average.
One Democrat pulled me aside and suggested that someone in the media do an independent analysis. That is probably a good idea. The problem is that most of the data out there already is skewed because anyone who bothers to collect it can spin it any way they want, or pre-determine the outcome based on their beliefs.
And this doesn’t even take into account the level of services people expect here versus other parts of the country.
Anyway, taxes are high…it’s true…but do people really wanna go live in Nebraska?