Pet projects, public cash: NJ lawmakers direct millions at last minute to favored causes

Editor’s Note: Pet Projects, Public Cash from NJ Spotlight News details how New Jersey lawmakers direct millions to projects, often with little public scrutiny over how that money is spent. Today’s stories focus on how much lawmakers themselves tuck into state budget and just what is pork spending. Coming Tuesday: Few rules detail what lawmakers can ask to spend, and many don’t follow them.

The NJ Spotlight News analysis of last-minute spending added by legislators to the budgets for the 2018-2022 fiscal years shows the regional disparity in the process, which is controlled by legislative leaders, all of whom are Democrats. They decide which legislative requests get funded. Democrats have controlled the Assembly for nearly two decades and the Senate since 2004.   

“If your guy isn’t sitting on the ‘right’ committee, or isn’t the dominant party, it doesn’t matter how much you need a bridge repaired. And that shouldn’t be, not at all,” said Linda Stamato, senior policy fellow at Rutgers University’s Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy. 

NJ Spotlight, January 11, 2022