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Budget Surplus Won’t Shrink On My Watch, Says NJ Treasurer [AUDIO]

Legislative hearings on Governor Chris Christie’s $32.1 billion Fiscal Year 2013 State Budget proposal are now officially in full swing in Trenton.

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Democrats and others who are peeling back the layers of the spending plan see an opening surplus that they fear is perilously small. In an exclusive one-on-one interview at the State House yesterday, State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff explained the Christie Administration’s plans for the rainy day fund.

“Our task is to keep a close watch on it and to aggressively manage cash and fund balances across the fiscal year,” says Sidamon-Eristoff. “We consider that to be a priority and I will certainly not let it deteriorate on my watch….The worst thing we could do is sort of have a blind eye and then come back to it later and try to clean up.”

The opening surplus under Christie’s spending plan would be $300 million dollars. Many see that as unimpressive.

Sidamon-Eristoff says, “I think it should and will be built back up. It’s an important consideration for us and for outside observers looking at the State of New Jersey.” The most important outside observers are the credit rating agencies.

Clearly the Treasurer expects the surplus to be increased as the year goes along and State Senate President Steve Sweeney cynically agrees with him.

Sweeney said last month, “I stood here last year and said, ‘I bet you the surplus is larger than he (Christie) thought,’ and it was and I didn’t have a crystal ball but I said, ‘I guarantee he announces an income tax cut the following year.’ It’s not that hard to figure out. He controls the numbers all the way around. He certifies the budget. Each year he’s underestimated his surplus and then comes in like a champion. They play a lot of games with the numbers.”

“Our own record as sort of stewards of the budget gives me great confidence that we’ll be able to manage it back up over the course of the fiscal year,” explained Sidamon-Eristoff the morning of Christie’s budget address. “Back in Fiscal (Year) 11 we were able to manage the number back up from a lower number so, I’m confident that we’ll be able to do that.”

“We actually exercise a rather painful level of scrutiny on the budget over the course of the fiscal year,” said Sidamon-Eristoff. “Some of the departments may or may not be entirely pleased, but we think hands-on management is appropriate and enables us to have confidence.”

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