TRENTON – Senator Barbara Buono, D-Middlesex and Chair of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, made the follow statement at today’s signing ceremony of the Fiscal Year 2009 State Budget:
“What we have achieved collectively through this process is remarkable. This budget represents “progress” in many ways and on many levels.
“By signing this budget we are giving back to the people of NJ a budget balanced on honest, sound financial principles.
“Transparency, a much-touted concept these days can mean many things to different people. In the context of the budget process it translated into hearings that were short on softball questions and where pat, non-responsive answers were not well received. The result was a much more informative give-and–take and a budget that better reflects members’ concerns.
“Both houses worked well together to iron out differences this year so that a consensus was reached a full week before the constitutional deadline of July 1st.
“But the public shouldn’t conclude from the relatively smooth sailing that this was an easy or painless process.
“The budget wasn’t balanced by relying on overly optimistic tax revenue projections for next year. In fact, revenue projections for the first time in not so recent memory, were projected to be lower than the current years revenues.
“The budget wasn’t balanced by new taxes, or reckless borrowing schemes, relied upon in the past.
“We even short-circuited the one-shot gimmicks, like relying on lawsuit settlements or asset sales. Christmas tree add-ons are fast becoming an anachronism. These are relics of the past that should be relegated to the history books.
“Instead, this budget was balanced by cuts. Cuts that were painful and in some cases, downright repugnant. But they were not indiscriminate and the legislature restored, where we could, some of the most onerous ones.
“In the process we kept the door open so poor and middle class students could attend our colleges and universities. We expanded health care for working families. We struggled to preserve programs that our communities have come to rely upon, programs that provide the support for people to help themselves have better, more productive lives.
“We began to pay down our debt to reduce our enormous, credit card payments and in the process began to lift the burden this places on our children.
“I feel fortunate to serve in my position at a time when we have a governor who is thoughtful and deliberate on fiscal matters. Rather than resort to telling the people what he thinks they want to hear, he is refreshingly honest about our fiscal predicament.
“The governor explains (sometimes in excruciating detail,) how we got here and what we need to do to dig our way out. The picture he paints is not pretty. But it is honest.
“The governor has earned our respect by his willingness to be frank even in the face of criticism that this approach may not be the most politically expedient way of dealing with our fiscal problems.
“The Governor has set the bar high. It is up to the Legislature to meet this challenge, by proposing bold solutions to problems that took decades to create.
“There are those who caution that it is too risky to even explore meaningful solutions to some of our most vexing and systemic problems. But to do nothing, to just continue along the well-worn path of fiscal irresponsibility, is nothing short of a failure of leadership, a forsaking of the oath of office we all took.
“We can do better and we will. No one ever promised that the choices we’d have to make as elected leaders would be easy, but we cannot afford to be complacent and to shirk responsibility.
“This is the first step as we chart a course with an eye to a future where we pursue the twin goals of correcting past mistakes and crafting a budget that better reflects the values we hold dear.”