Many people think the public is wasting its time by showing up and testifying before Senate and Assembly Budget Committees.

Governor's Office/Tim Larsen

Lawmakers on the budget panel in the Upper House don't agree with that sentiment. They believe public input is valuable and that is a bi-partisan belief.

"Folks who testify, their testimony weighs on all of our minds," says Senate budget panel chairman Paul Sarlo, a Democrat. "Sometimes when people come and testify they share something with us that either the legislative branch or the executive branch misses……Changes have been made over the years based upon testimony that has been received at public hearings."

Sarlo's committee held the first of its public hearings yesterday. More public hearings are to come and the panel will also grill members of Governor Chris Christie's cabinet. For a full listing of the dates for hearings, visit or

Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee echo Sarlo's thoughts on public testimony.

"It's one of the few times you get to hear right from the folks about their real concerns on the ground," explains GOP Senator Kevin O'Toole. "I think that's where the greatest impact is being felt….You getting tired of talking to the Trentonocrats who just talk in the same speak about different numbers and it becomes a little surreal."

The Assembly Budget Committee is out with its public hearing schedule as well. Check that out at or