NJ Dems fail to override Christie veto of debt analysis
As they have in every previous attempt, New Jersey legislative Democrats on Monday failed to override a bill vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie.
The legislation, which would have required a debt affordability analysis to be included in the state's annual debt report, originally passed 77-0 in the lower house and 40-0 in the state Senate. However, when it was posted for an override, most Assembly Republicans stood behind their governor and voted against the measure.
"I'm disappointed, and I think the taxpayers of the state of New Jersey should be even more disappointed," said bill sponsor, Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-Mount Laurel). "When you have such widespread support from everyone -- Democrats, Republicans, liberals and conservatives -- you feel that this is something we can all rally behind."
According to Singleton, if the bill were to be made law, it would provide a clear framework for the governor, his administration and lawmakers to evaluate and establish priorities for legislation that could impact the amount of state debt during future fiscal years. Singleton said this would have helped the state get a better handle on its mounting debt.
"During the past two weeks, the treasurer and experts in this field brought to our attention it creates not only SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) problems, but opens the state to possible litigation," said Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield), adding that the reports could alternately be issued by the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services rather than the governor's office. "I supported the bill, so I think it's a great idea. I just don't want to run afoul of what my understanding of what the law and the risk to the state is."
The reasons for opening the state up to possible lawsuits are very technical, Bramnick said, and that is why he requested a delay in the override vote until all 80 members of the Assembly could become better educated on the topic. Singleton and Democratic leaders did not agree.
"Eleven other states have utilized this method to inform not only the legislature, but also the general public about where they stand in the debt process," Singleton said.
Some have criticized the Christie administration of delaying the disclosure of a lawsuit threat, including Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Voorhees).
"I'm used to disrespect from the front office," Greenwald said.
In his veto message, Christie did not mention legal implications. He did write that the legislation would require the state "to produce a speculative report that would be of little value in making future debt determinations, but may adversely and erroneously affect the state's bond rating."
The final override vote was 45 in favor, five against, and 23 abstentions. Seven Assembly members did not cast a vote. The only three Assembly Republicans to support the override were Jay Webber (R-Parsippany), John DiMaio (R-Bridgewater) and Erik Peterson (R-Clinton).
The Associated Press contributed to this report.