The ranking Republican for budget affairs in the state Senate is pressuring Democrats for open hearings on Gov. Phil Murphy’s proposed budget.
Senate Republican Budget Officer Steven Oroho (R- 24) wants at least one Senate Budget Committee meeting that is open for public testimony on the 2021 budget.
In a letter to State Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-36), chairman of the Senate Budget and Appropriations (SBA) Committee, Oroho wrote “Allowing (the Murphy) Administration to get away with such a lack of disclosure on such a large budget will be negligent on the part of our co-equal branch of government.”
Least Transparent, Inclusive
“But the biggest disappointment for me and many of my colleagues is the lack of even one opportunity for the public to share their concerns in person or via a Zoom meeting with the full Senate Budget Committee,” he stated.
Oroho characterized the budget process as being one of the “least transparent and inclusive” in history, citing the governor is not sharing a full budget, most commissioners are not appearing before the Senate Budget Committee to present their budgets and answer tough questions and the the Office of Legislative Services not preparing department-by-department analysis or producing written questions of departments with the departments’ written answers.
“Having worked in public financial reporting for a number of years, and having worked with you for years on the SBA and other committees, I know we both are acutely aware of the increased disclosure requirements the business community has to the public as required by the likes of the Securities and Exchange Commission and other regulatory agencies, including New Jersey’s own Department of Banking and Insurance,” noted Oroho. “Allowing this Administration to get away with such a lack of disclosure on such a large budget will be negligent on the part of our co-equal branch of government.”
The Sussex County senator argued that testimony before the budget committee has been some of the most impactful he has ever heard, citing the testimony from those with disabilities explaining their challenges, battered women explaining their trauma and services that protect them, small business owners explaining their concerns about excessive levels of taxation and local schools sharing examples of the unfairness of funding formulas.
Let Public Speak
“A public budget meeting is about more than good people having an opportunity to talk to us—and for us to hear from them,” said Oroho. “It is about their ability to do so in a public setting where the press can hear their concerns as well and share their concerns with the broader public.
The GOP state senator placed the problems with this budget process on the shoulders of a governor who he believes has abused a six month extension to produce a budget.
Abuse by Murphy
“The extension was afforded to him in a bipartisan spirit of accommodation,” he said. “Despite being given the only such extension in the entire country, when the deadline arrived, he produced only a summary budget proposal without important detail or the sort of supporting material to explain it.”
“Frankly, the Governor is disrespecting taxpayers, those who rely on important funding in the budget, and everyone involved in the budget process.”