Pleas from public taken into consideration as lawmakers adjust N.J. budget proposal

The New Jersey Assembly Budget Committee holds a hearing on Gov. Chris Christie's proposed $34.8 billion budget plan. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

The New Jersey Assembly Budget Committee holds a hearing on Gov. Chris Christie's proposed $34.8 billion budget plan. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

As they examine Gov. Chris Christie’s budget proposal, New Jersey lawmakers are hearing pleas from the public and special interest groups over the course of several hearings.

Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Gary Schaer said Monday those hearings are not window dressing.

“People coming and sharing their concerns alerts the committee to questions that we then direct to the commissioners during the following 16 days of hearings,” he said. “And those questions, at times, lead to fundamental changes in the budget.”

Schaer, D-Passaic, said he isn’t sure whether majority Democrats in the Legislature will revise Christie’s $34.8 billion budget proposal or introduce their own budget plan to meet New Jersey’s needs.

Declan O’Scanlon, the ranking Republican on the Assembly Budget Committee, said he doesn’t anticipate significant budget changes because the state doesn’t have the money.

“There’s very little leeway,” said O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth. “Unless we do major reforms that we’ve been talking about — pension and benefits reform and a whole host of other things — this state is going to be broke for a long, long time.”

Hearings with individual state commissioners will be held before a budget is enacted by the end of June.

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