|Kean Files OPRA Complaint as Murphy Admin Withholds Public Financial Records
Says Secrecy Preventing Proper Review of Murphy’s Massive Budget & Tax Increase Plans
Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean said the administration of Governor Phil Murphy has failed to comply with the New Jersey Open Public Records Act (OPRA) by improperly withholding readily available public financial documents that were requested more than 45 days ago from the Treasury Department.
The charge was made today in a complaint filed by Kean with the Government Records Council (GRC), the State entity responsible for adjudicating complaints related to the denial of access to public agency records. Kean said Treasury officials have granted themselves multiple extensions to delay responding to the OPRA request with information that he believes is critical to informing legislators engaged in budget and tax deliberations.
Click here to download the complaint. (Note: the PDF file will not display in browsers, it must be downloaded and opened in Adobe Acrobat Reader)
“Senate Republicans submitted an OPRA request to the Treasury Department in April to obtain documents detailing New Jersey’s finances that have already been provided to Wall Street,” said Kean. “We’re concerned that the Murphy Administration’s repeated failure to provide any responsive documents is a deliberate effort to force legislators to vote on nearly $2 billion of tax increases proposed by the Governor without the disclosure of relevant budget information. With our June 30th deadline for adopting a new State budget rapidly approaching, we were left with no choice but to file a complaint today to obtain access to the public records that will allow us to perform our constitutionally mandated duties.”
The OPRA request, submitted on April 25, 2018, reads as follows:
“Please provide all documents (other than email) maintained in electronic format (i.e. Word, Excel, PDF, or Powerpoint) shared by anyone in the Treasurer’s Central Office or Office of Public Finance with any of the four following rating agencies: Moody’s, Kroll, S&P, or Fitch. Only documents shared on or after January 15, 2018 through and including April 25, 2018 presenting information with respect to, or seeking information about, the State’s finances, FY 2019 proposed budget, or bonds issued or to be issued by the Tobacco Settlement Financing Corporation are requested.”
The records requested by Senate Republicans were produced for credit rating agencies this spring by the Treasury Department. Since the documents were provided to the rating agencies with the intent of influencing the purchase of bonds, they are required by federal law to be truthful and free of misleading statements.
“We believe these documents provide the best shot of getting an honest view of the Murphy Administration’s fiscal outlook for the State,” said Kean. “They must be free of the sort of hyperbole and spin that was employed by Treasury officials who sought to sell the Governor’s tax increase plans at our budget hearings. That’s why it’s so important that we obtain access to financial documents where we know the Murphy Administration has a legal obligation to tell the truth.”
Given the upcoming budget deadline, Kean urged the Governor Records Council to expedite a hearing on his Denial of Access Complaint.
“It should raise alarms that the Governor is fighting so hard to prevent the release of detailed and accurate fiscal information while simultaneously seeking to raise billions in sales, income, and business taxes,” Kean concluded. “It’s absolutely imperative that our complaint be adjudicated immediately to ensure that lawmakers have the opportunity to review documents that may help us to fight Governor Murphy’s plan to make New Jersey even more expensive.”
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