N.J. Revenue May Be $540 Million Off Target, Analyst Says

New Jersey’s revenue collections were as much as $540 million less than targeted by Governor Chris Christie through the fiscal year ended June 30, according to a memo from the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services.

The total was $24.2 billion, compared with $24.7 billion projected by Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff, according to David Rosen, legislative budget officer. The gap will narrow by as much as $300 million after year-end accounting adjustments, Rosen wrote in a letter yesterday to Senator Barbara Buono, a Metuchen Democrat who requested an analysis.

“Even allowing for typical adjustments of $200 million to $300 million, that means we will have started off this fiscal year with about half of Governor Christie’s projected surplus already gone,” Buono said in a statement.

The state is in the process of shifting some of July’s cash collections to the fiscal year that ended June 30 in order to achieve balance. This is a typical accounting process, according to Rosen and Kevin Roberts, a Christie spokesman.

“Whether it is this year, last year, five or 10 years ago, the process of closing out a fiscal year and moving from one to another always includes accounting adjustments and transfer between fiscal years,” Roberts said in an e-mail.

Partial Report

Because those adjustments aren’t complete, the revenue figures released yesterday are preliminary, and it is premature to report a shortfall, Roberts said.

The Christie administration on Aug. 15 released only partial revenue figures for July. That prompted criticism from Buono, who said the governor wasn’t obeying his own executive order signed in January 2010, his first month in office, which stipulates that revenue reports be issued monthly.

Sidamon-Eristoff’s office released more July figures late yesterday. Revenue was $304 million, 5.5 percent under target, as casino taxes were 30 percent less than projected. The report didn’t disclose whether sales-tax collections, one of the state’s biggest revenue sources, met goals.

Collections Rise

Collections for all of the state’s major revenues were 2.5 percent higher last month than in July 2011, Sidamon-Eristoff said in a statement. Corporate taxes were 26 percent higher and sales levies were 4.4 lower, while income taxes were up by 10 percent.

“The fact that July collections were significantly higher is a clear signal that the economy continues to grow,” Sidamon-Eristoff said.

Christie has traveled the state touting a “Jersey Comeback,” an economic-recovery plan that includes a tax cut. The $31.7 billion budget for fiscal 2013 didn’t include a tax reduction because Democrats, who control the Legislature, weren’t certain whether revenue would meet Christie’s targets. His plan maintained a surplus of more than $600 million.

The governor has said his tax cut will help create jobs. New Jersey’s unemployment rate jumped to a 35-year high of 9.8 percent in July, the state Labor Department said yesterday.

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