Fine Print: ‘Score Sheet’ Tracks Twists and Turns in Tale of Two Budgets

John Mooney | June 26, 2014 | Education
Annual analysis by OLS offers unbiased breakdown of spending plans proposed by Legislature, governor

budget chart
What it is: The nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services annually breaks down precise details in the budget voted on by the state Legislature, down to each line item and language change, compared to what the governor proposed in his budget message.

What it means: Known as the budget “score sheet,” it is the document that legislators peruse in making their final determinations on the annual budget. Every last dollar change is laid out, every difference in language between the Legislature’s bill and that proposed by Gov. Chris Christie in his budget message this winter is explained. With the Legislature expected to work long hours today to finalize its budget, it will surely be a well-read document.

Two documents: The OLS release both a numerical breakdown of every line-item change and a breakdown of language changes. Healthcare items provide a good example.

Healthcare budget highlights: The budget includes several increases related to the Democrats’ healthcare priorities. These include $2.4 million for a pilot program to increase collaboration between psychiatrists, primary care doctors and social workers in Bergen County; $1 million for the State Commission on Cancer Research: $20 million for the Cancer Institute of New Jersey and the MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper, and $7.5 million for family planning services. The budget also includes an additional $10.9 million for nursing homes.

Healthcare language highlights: The Legislature also added budget language that affects healthcare. It would require the Department of Human Services to collaborate with county corrections agencies to maximize Medicaid enrollment. It also would require the state to offer health insurance that complies with the Affordable Care Act to residents who previously received New Jersey FamilyCare Advantage, a low-cost health plan that was cancelled earlier this year because it wasn’t ACA-compliant.

The last word: Gov. Chris Christie has steadfastly said he won’t approve any budget provisions that include a tax increase, all but assuring a veto of the final budget and a showdown in the coming days. He could issue a conditional veto that trims only certain items from the final budget legislation.