Buono Welcomes Republican Suggestions To Budget Discussion

Budget Committee Chair Says Some Items Already Have Bipartisan Support

TRENTON – Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman, Senator Barbara Buono, D-Middlesex, issued the following statement today in response to Republican suggestions for alternatives to Governor Corzine’s proposed FY 2009 Budget:

“When Democrats and Republicans work together, we can accomplish great things for the State of New Jersey, just as we did with the bipartisan school funding law that increased funding in an equitable way to our local school districts by $600 million. As we consider the FY 2009 Budget, we must come together, in the spirit of bipartisanship, to approve a spending plan which changes the course for Trenton, and curbs a dangerous spending habit which has sent government in New Jersey spiraling out of control.

“I welcome my Republican colleagues’ input, and I will be glad to consider any proposal so long as we maintain the Governor’s proposed reduction of more than a billion dollars in spending from last year’s budget. I look forward to working with Republican lawmakers on the Senate Budget Committee as we work to restore some of the Governor’s more objectionable cuts, with a recognition that any restoration has to be considered with accompanying cuts elsewhere in the spending plan.

“I pledge to work with lawmakers across the political spectrum to reverse the Governor’s most harmful cuts in State aid. Additionally, I’m encouraged by the prospect of working together even after passage of the budget to impose accountability over outside contracting, by strictly limiting outsourcing and closely monitoring contracts that are bid.

“We know from the federal government’s experience with privatization in the Iraq War that the costs of independent contractors explode, and there’s zero accountability to the people paying those bills – the taxpayers. It’s fair to say that the State of New Jersey’s system of contract oversight and monitoring is virtually non-existent, or at the best dysfunctional, and we need an elected comptroller and other government reforms to act as a check to runaway spending on State contracts.

“I think both parties are essentially in agreement that in order to save the pension system for current public employees, we must take decisive action to stop the growth of New Jersey’s unfunded liability, which is growing by leaps and bounds even without an early retirement initiative. We can rein in skyrocketing debt by reaching a consensus on pension fixes for future employees while preserving pensions for those who have worked for years in anticipation of promises made when they retire.

“The next few weeks of budget negotiation are going to be difficult, but as long as lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle and the Governor maintain a commitment to reduce spending and control the excesses that got us here in the first place, we’ll have a budget that puts New Jersey on the right track to fiscal sanity. Growing the economy is an important part of the equation to restore fiscal stability to the budget, but as we saw during the 1990’s, reliance on that strategy alone will fail miserably if we don’t break the cycle of self-destructive spending which has backed New Jersey into a corner.

“We can’t follow the failed philosophy of multiple past administrations and try to spend our way out of this crisis. We need to tackle State spending rationally and pragmatically to ensure we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past.”