MORRIS COUNTY — Three weeks after the enactment of the FY2023 budget, requests for changes to the appropriations bill made by lawmakers and the executive branch have still not been made public. Assemblywoman Aura Dunn, a member of the Assembly budget committee, proposes to put an end to the lack of transparency by drafting legislation requiring budget resolutions be made public by June 1 of each year.
“Good governance is a shared experience and the complete lack of transparency in this year’s budget process should outrage every resident. It rightfully erodes the public’s trust in our system of government. The people of New Jersey deserve honest and open public servants,” Dunn (R-Morris) said. “Taxpayers should know where their money is going, how it is being spent and who requested the funding.”
According to the rules, all proposed changes to the budget, as well as the author of each change, must be published at least 14 days prior to the final consideration of the appropriations bill. The Democrat majority has interpreted the language differently, arguing that budget resolutions must only be filed with budget committees in that time frame.
“Timely disclosure of budget documents is intended to allow for ample examination and instill public confidence in the process. Unfortunately, legislative leaders have failed to follow the rules, so it is time we spell them out clearly in law,” Dunn said.
Under Dunn’s bill, additions to the budget would be published on the legislature’s website by June 1 of each year – well ahead of the June 30 deadline to pass the annual appropriations act.
Between Gov. Phil Murphy’s proposed budget delivered in March and the final $50.6 billion plan presented just moments before the respective budget committees approved it June 25, it grew nearly $2 billion for political interests. The add-ons, known as Christmas tree items in Trenton, fund pet projects in individual legislators’ districts.
“There shouldn’t be secrecy when it comes to such generous gifts. This isn’t Santa’s workshop, it’s the Statehouse,” Dunn added. “As I said from the Assembly floor, transparency brings accountability, accountability brings trust in our government.”