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Assembly Panel Wants Subpoena Power Over Treasurer

The State Treasurer has refused to testify before the Assembly Budget Committee four times in the recent past. The panel’s chairman is fed up and tomorrow, his committee will consider legislation granting the panel subpoena power to force the Treasurer to testify.

Andrew P. Sidamon-Eristoff
Treasurer Andrew P. Sidamon-Eristoff (NJ Dept. of the Treasury)

“This committee and thus the elected representatives of the people, has been denied the testimony of executive branch officials on issues with significant state budget impacts no less than four times since September,” says Assembly Budget Committee chairman, Vinnie Prieto. “Invoking subpoena power is not a step we would take lightly, but the failure of the Christie administration to respond to important and relevant inquiries makes it necessary.”

 Prieto’s Reasons For Subpoena Power

According to Preito, State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff has declined requests to speak to the committee to discuss the state revenue shortfall, plans to privatize the state Lottery and Hurricane Sandy relief funding.

The resolution, which would require full Assembly approval should it clear the committee tomorrow, authorizes the panel to use subpoenas for compelling testimony and the production of documents from employees of the state, any state agency or any political subdivision of the state.

 Other Sponsors Speak Out

The legislation is co-sponsored by Assembly members John Burzichelli and Bonnie Watson Coleman.

The Treasurer may be appointed by the Governor, but he’s the Treasurer for everybody in the state of New Jersey,” says Burzichelli. “He’s not just the Treasurer for the Governor. For us to make the right decisions, we need information, and this Treasurer has failed to cooperate.”

For the purposes of carrying out investigations under resolution, the committee would have powers including, but not limited to, the power to issue subpoenas to compel attendance and testimony of persons and the production of books, papers, correspondence and other documents.

“Collecting information from the executive branch is a critical component of the General Assembly and Assembly Budget Committee’s duties in constructing and overseeing the state budget,” explains Watson Coleman. “We have asked for testimony on substantive issues that have a significant and lasting impact on state finances and require oversight, but a lack of cooperation from the Christie administration unfortunately makes this necessary.”

If approved, the legislation would take effect immediately and the committee’s powers would expire at noon on Tuesday, January 14, 2014, which is the end of the current legislative session.

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