Calls For Long-Term New Jersey Budget Planning To Preserve Surplus

TRENTON, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — New Jersey's $48.9 billion budget is likely to be approved July 1 without any significant obstacles. Since this year is all but a done deal, some in Trenton say it’s time to think about the years ahead.

With a Democratic governor and Democrats in control of the Senate and Assembly, the budget isn't very contentious in New Jersey.

The state has a multi-billion dollar surplus this year, but a new study from Rowan University suggests a fiscal cliff on the horizon. It's up for debate just how far the fall might be. Some think it could be $40 billion or more because of required pension payments for state workers.

"When you see the train coming down the tracks, get off the tracks," said former Senate President Steve Sweeney, for whom Rowan's Sweeney Center for Public Policy is named. "We’re walking into a very bad situation. The good news is we’re prepared as we go into it."

The Sweeney Center has called for five-year budgeting plans to prepare for these situations. Sweeney himself cautioned lawmakers in Trenton to spend wisely now.

"What I'm saying is maybe we should slow down a look and see what we're spending," he said, "because we're not saying, 'Don’t spend.' We're saying, 'Don't overspend.'"

Some legislators agree more long-term planning in needed. Senator Troy Singleton said if a deficit is approaching, the state needs to be as prepared as possible.

"We probably should move the the direction, like many other states who do multi-year budgeting," said Singleton.

"It makes complete sense. We gotta start planning ahead and not just living year by year," agreed Assemblyman Antwan McClellan.

With long-term budget planning as official policy, Sweeney said the Garden State could boost its rating with credit agencies.

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