Codey Institutes New Rules To Overhaul Senate Budget Process, Require Public Disclosure

New Rules Part of Broad, Long-Term Government Reforms

TRENTON – Delivering on his promise to create a more transparent budget process, Senate President Richard J. Codey (D-Essex) today sent a memo to all members of the state Senate outlining a set of new rules aimed at creating more open and timely procedures for adoption of the annual appropriations bill.

“Adoption of the annual appropriations act is the Legislature’s single most important responsibility. It is essential that the public have confidence in our decision making. Subjecting budget revisions to more public disclosure will move us in that direction,” added Sen. Codey.

Under the new procedures, any Senator who wants to add, delete or change items in the governor’s budget proposal must submit their request in writing to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee chair, via the Legislative Budget and Finance Officer, at least 21 calendar days prior to the June 27 deadline for final action on the annual appropriations bill by the Legislature.

Requests must be submitted using the newly created Budget Resolution Request Form (see attachment), setting forth in detail each item proposed to be added, deleted or changed, including a statement explaining the reason for the proposed changes. Members will also be required to disclose whether they or family members are employed by or have any business relationship with the intended grant recipient.

Requests from the executive branch must also be submitted in writing prior to the deadline.

All proposed changes to the budget, as well as the author of each change, will be published at least 14 days prior to consideration of the appropriations bill by the Senate.

The new rules, part of a seven-point ethics reform plan unveiled by Sen. Codey last month, are designed to enhance public confidence in the budget process by providing a more transparent opportunity for public scrutiny and eliminating hasty, last minute deliberations.

The new rules will ensure that the annual appropriations bill considered by the Senate will contain only items proposed in the Governor’s budget recommendations and items proposed in budget resolutions filed pursuant to this procedure and approved by the committee.

Further enhancing these reforms is an additional proposal, bill S-2505, which would tighten the current lobbying disclosure law to require lobbyists to include specific information in their ELEC reports about the budget modifications they are seeking on behalf of their clients. This bill was approved by the full Senate last week, along with three others that are part of Sen. Codey’s ethics reform plan, most of which are up for consideration by the Assembly State Government Committee today. The bill package is designed to prohibit political contributions by public agencies, crack down on lobbyist influence, and tighten controls on the use of campaign funds.

“I applaud the Assembly for taking quick action on these proposals as well. Their support, along with that of Governor Corzine, is a clear sign that we are committed to changing the way we do business in Trenton,” added Sen. Codey. “Many of these proposals are also intrinsically linked to our efforts to provide property tax reform. Real long-term relief requires tangible reforms that will rein in spending and abuses in the years to come.”