Subpoena Power Over Treasurer Sought By Budget Committee [AUDIO]
State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff will have no choice but to testify before the Assembly Budget Committee if the full Assembly approves a new measure passed by the panel yesterday.
The legislation would give the committee subpoena power to investigate state revenue collections, budget contingency plans, the state Lottery privatization plans, Hurricane Sandy relief funding and other finance matters.
"This branch of government deserves respect," says budget panel chairman, Assemblyman Vinnie Prieto. "It needs to have answers because it answers to the people of the State of New Jersey…..My issue was our frustration that on four different occasions, three different topics the Treasurer did not come in."
The bill has been released 6-4 by the Assembly Budget Committee, with Democrats supporting and Republicans opposed. The resolution, which still requires Assembly approval, authorizes the committee 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.
"The Treasurer may be appointed by the Governor, but he's the Treasurer for everybody in the State of New Jersey," says bill co-sponsor, Assemblyman John Burzichelli. "For us to make the right decisions, we need information, and this treasurer has failed to cooperate."
Governor Christie Reacts
Asked about the subpoena power legislation, Gov. Chris Christie showed he's less than impressed.
"Listen, it's the political season," says Christie. "Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, you know. The Treasurer will show up at budget hearings and will give full and complete budget testimony regarding the budget plans after I lay it out next Tuesday…No one should be concerned about any of this because to me it's of absolutely no import at all and nothing I'm losing sleep over."
What Subpoena Power Means
Under the resolution, if approved by the full Assembly, the budget committee would have the authority to investigate all matters related to the state budget and state finances including. The panel 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.
This resolution takes effect immediately upon Assembly approval and the committee's powers would expire at noon on Tuesday, January 14, 2014, which is the end of the current legislative session.
Ranking Republican Responds
Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon, the ranking Republican on the budget committee agrees with Christie that there will be plenty of testimony as there always is just after Tuesday's State Budget Address.
"I don't think you're going to see subpoena power employed," says O'Scanlon. "We won't need it. This will go away."