Here at Eye on Trenton, we do our best to closely monitor what’s happening in the New Jersey Legislature, to keep others informed about the way our state is being governed. If we’ve learned nothing else over the years, it’s to expect the most controversial legislative measures to be announced as late as legally possible, typically on Friday afternoon, when most people are already in “weekend mode” and not paying attention. The time window for NJ residents to share their thoughts is typically quite limited in such instances.
This past Friday was no exception.
At 4:40pm, the Legislative Calendar was released, revealing that the Senate Budget Committee will be considering–and, of course, releasing–two bills this Tuesday (A4175/S2697) that will allow our state government to issue bonds (aka borrow) up to $9.9 billion to cover revenue shortfalls caused by the COVID-19 crisis. The Senate bill is still “Pending Introduction and Referral” as of 9:30am Monday, though the deadline for registering to testify on the bill is less than 8 hours away. An Assembly version passed the lower house on June 4th, along partisan lines. It’s being reported that the new agreement calls for a special four-member Committee (consisting of two Senate reps and two Assembly reps) to review all potential expenditures, and would require 3 out of the 4 to approve the spending.
According to Republican Senator Declan O’Scanlon, legislators in the minority party only learned of this agreement via a Press Release. O’Scanlon referred to the borrowing plan as a “scheme” and asserts that, by shunning voter approval, the move is “unconstitutional.” In a statement, O’Scanlon said the plan “represents fiscal irresponsibility on a scale that is unprecedented even by Trenton standards.” Read his full statement here: https://www.senatenj.com/index.php/oscanlon/oscanlon-democrats-partisan-agreement-to-borrow-nearly-10-billion-still-unconstitutional/49243
Supporters say that the bonding plan is essential in order for NJ to get back on its feet after the unanticipated economic turmoil caused by COVID-19. Senate President Stephen Sweeney, prime sponsor of the Senate bill, said, “This agreement will ensure we will have the resources needed to respond to this fiscal and economic crisis in a responsible way.” With Governor Murphy, Senator Sweeney and Assemblyman Coughlin all publicly in support of the measures, the bills have been fast-tracked for swift approval, although constitutional questions persist. The bills are expected to go up for a full vote this Thursday in the Senate, and the Assembly version is already on the list for Thursday’s voting session.
If you would like to share your thoughts on this borrowing plan with the Committee prior to the vote, the deadline to register is TODAY at 5pm. You’ll need to fill out the Registration Form, which can be a little tough to find if you’re not familiar with the process. Here’s how to do it:
You can also submit testimony directly by sending an email in advance to: OLSAideSBA@njleg.org. Remember to cite the bill numbers, A4175/S2697, and be clear about your position on the bill (Opposed or In Support).