Senate Republican Budget Officer Steven Oroho is calling for at least one Senate Budget Committee meeting that is open for public testimony on the FY 2021 budget.
Senator Oroho, the Senate Republic Budget Officer, is calling for the addition of at least one hearing to allow the public to comment on the Fiscal Year 2021 budget to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. (SenateNJ.com)
In a letter to Senate Paul Sarlo, chairman of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, Oroho said he was disappointed by “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.”
The full text of the letter is below:
Dear Senator Sarlo:
I am encouraging you to schedule at least one meeting of the Senate Budget Committee to take public testimony about the 2021 budget.
This budget process is one of the least transparent and inclusive in history. 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. The Office of Legislative Services is 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. 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.
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.
Over the years, testimony before the budget committee has been some of the most impactful I have ever heard. Courageous young people and adults with severe disabilities have explained their unique challenges and made respectful and thoughtful requests for support. Battered women have explained their trauma and explained important services that protect and help them. Small business owners and people being priced out of New Jersey have had the opportunity to explain their concerns about excessive or destructive levels of taxation. Local schools have shared examples of the unfairness of a woefully deficient funding formula.
I know we all individually meet with concerned residents and I will be doing so throughout the budget process. But a public budget meeting is about more than good people having an opportunity to talk to us – and for us to hear from them. 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.
Most the problems with this budget process fall squarely on the shoulders of a Governor who has abused a six month extension (from February to August). The extension was afforded to him in a bipartisan spirit of accommodation. 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.
We can help make the best of a bad situation by giving folks at least one opportunity to testify in a public setting — even if by Zoom. Not everyone agrees on what everyone has to say, but we can all agree that we should hear each other out, and that the public and press should be able to bear witness that the public has been heard.
Thank you for your attention to this request.
Senator Steven V. Oroho
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