TRENTON – Senator Paul Sarlo, chairman of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, took issue with Treasurer-designate Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff’s statement that the state’s decision to withhold nearly half-a-billion dollars in school aid was the most “effective,” “practical” and “fair” way to eliminate the state’s mid-year budget gap.
Mr. Eristoff made his comments today during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Sarlo sits on.
“The administration may think that taking needed state aid away from school districts is a fair way to balance the budget, but most New Jersey property taxpayers would probably think differently,” said Sarlo (D-Bergen/Essex/Passaic). “The simple fact is that the surplus money the administration is now forcing every school district to use to balance their own books is money that was meant to go back to property taxpayers. And the Acting Treasurer knows it.”
During his questioning of Mr. Eristoff, Sen. Sarlo asked if the “money-over-surplus” – the majority of the funds used to calculate the state’s aid cut – was money directed to go back to property taxpayers; Mr. Eristoff said it was. But, when the Senator noted that by that logic the school cuts announced last week meant taxpayers were losing $475 million that was meant as a buffer from a property tax hike, the Acting Treasurer demurred.
“After a full week, the administration still has no good answer for the essential question: Why are they so insistent on a half-a-billion dollar property tax hike when the state is sitting on a $500 million surplus that is meant to be its, and taxpayers, first line of defense?” said Sarlo.