The top budget analyst with New Jersey's nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services has informed Senate and Assembly budget committees that if the Garden State's economic rebound mirrored national performance, the state would have had roughly $3.3 billion more to spend in the current year's budget.

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But Dr. David Rosen, legislative budget and finance officer for OLS, said New Jersey's lackluster recovery has left the state behind the pace of the rest of the country.

"In Fiscal Year 2014, we could have fully funded the statutory homestead rebate program and the school aid formula," Rosen said, "or cut the income tax rates by 25 percent."

According to Rosen, $3.3 billion buys a lot. He also said the state could have fully funded its public employee pension obligation and still have had a billion dollars left over to start refunding post-retirement medical obligations.

"(We could have) repealed the corporation business tax, the estate tax and the transfer inheritance tax or funded virtually every wish you heard during the public hearings," Rosen told the budget panels. "But, of course, we do not have the luxury of an extra $3.3 billion."

Lawmakers in New Jersey have to face even harder budget choices than their counterparts in other state capitals, Rosen said, when revenue growth is not as robust.