Much of the discussion following New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s State Budget Address last Tuesday centered around his 10% income tax cut, increased school aid and the largest ever payment into the public workers pension fund.

Those who peel back the layers of the proposal will see an opening surplus that some analysts think is perilously small.

The opening surplus under Christie’s spending plan would be $300 million dollars. Many see that as an unimpressive rainy day fund. State Treasurer Andrew Eristoff expects the surplus to be increased as the year goes along. State Senate President Steve Sweeney cynically agrees with him.

“Our own record as sort of stewards of the budget gives me great confidence that we’ll be able to manage it back up over the course of the fiscal year,” explains Eristoff. “Back in Fiscal (Year) 11 we were able to manage the number back up from a lower number so, I’m confident that we’ll be able to do that.”

Sweeney says, “I stood here last year and said, ‘I bet you the surplus is larger than he (Christie) thought,’ and it was and I didn’t have a crystal ball but I said, ‘I guarantee he announces an income tax cut the following year.’ It’s not that hard to figure out. He controls the numbers all the way around. He certifies the budget. Each year he’s underestimated his surplus and then comes in like a champion. They play a lot of games with the numbers.”

“We actually exercise a rather painful level of scrutiny on the budget over the course of the fiscal year,” explains Eristoff. “Some of the departments may or may not be entirely pleased, but we think hands-on management is appropriate and enables us to have confidence.”