View of Proposed Budget Split Along Party Lines for North Jersey Legislators

Reaction to Gov. Phil Murphy’s proposed budget fell along partisan lines in North Jersey. GOP lawmakers questioned the amount of spending and borrowing, while fellow Democrats praised the funding of needed programs in the state.

State Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-36) welcomed the governor’s proposal fully aware of the severe economic challenges confronting New Jersey and sensitive to the tight timetable to get the work done.

“There is nothing normal about the circumstances and nothing easy about the task before us,” said Sarlo, chairman of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. “I am confident that we can come together on a spending plan that makes the most of limited resources and does the best to address the needs of New Jersey in a time of crisis.”

Long-term Ramifications

The Bergen County state senator said that any proposal to increase taxes or add to state debt will be scrutinized cautiously to ensure how the funds will be used, the impact on the state’s economic recovery, its ability to manage debt payments, and the multi-year consequences. 

“While our immediate responsibility is the FY-21 budget, we have to remember that economic problems may persist and that one-year fiscal solutions may leave us short,” said Sarlo.

Murphy’s $32 billion budget includes $1.25 billion in spending reductions across all executive state departments, proposes including imposing a millionaire’s tax on all income above $1 million; permanently incorporating the 2.5% corporation surcharge; restoring the sales tax on limousines; and removing the tax cap on boats. 

Additionally, the revised budget proposes to borrow $4 billion to help address the economic fallout created by COVID-19. An agreement on the nine-month budget must be reached by Oct. 1.

Wrong Direction

Conversely, State Sen. Kristin Corrado (R-40) declared the budget offered takes New Jersey in the wrong direction.

“Shop owners and employers here are cutting back and doing everything possible to survive, and here’s Trenton, spending haphazardly and borrowing money to do it, dooming our state to unaffordability for decades to come,” said Corrado. “The governor is in denial. The budget he proposed spends even more money than his previous budget, crafted in the best of economic times.”

The Passaic County lawmaker believes the state should be reining in spending like families have had to due during the pandemic. 

“When money gets tight, Murphy only knows one way: spend, tax, borrow. It’s a vicious cycle that New Jerseyans cannot afford, especially now when the economy has already been crushed by coronavirus edicts and fears,” said Corrado “It has to stop.”

Tax Fairness

Senate Republican Budget Officer Steven Oroho (R-24) criticised the governor for failing to pursue tax fairness with New York as part of his budget proposal. 

“It’s not every day that we have the opportunity to lower taxes for hundreds of thousands of New Jerseyans while generating potentially billions in new tax revenues for the state,” said Oroho. “As an alternative to the borrowing and tax increases the administration has proposed for increasing spending in the state budget, this would seem to be a no-brainer.”

Along those same lines, State Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R-25) decried Murphy’s borrowing plan to balance the state budget when the administration’s story keeps changing from week to week.

Data Questioned

“Governor Murphy is always talking about ‘data,’ well the state’s monthly revenue data shows that tax collections have largely recovered to pre-COVID levels,” said Pennacchio. “The massive budget hole that the governor says we need to borrow and raise taxes to fill simply doesn’t exist.”

Specifically, the Morris County senator wondered why the administration is borrowing to build a $2 billion surplus.

“In what world do you borrow $4 billion to build a $2 billion surplus?” Pennacchio asked. “This is about politics, plain and simple, and the governor setting himself up with the state credit card to play Santa Claus as he heads into his re-election campaign next year.”

Unacceptable Proposal

According to State Sen. Anthony Bucco (R-24), Murphy’s call for higher income taxes, higher business taxes and billions in borrowing is unacceptable.

“Everyone recognizes that the pandemic has created fiscal challenges and unprecedented uncertainties, but the Governor continues to single-handedly dig us into a deeper hole that is leading to a greater generational fiscal mess,” commented Bucco.

“This is made even worse for the businesses lucky enough to survive the pandemic, who are punished by this Governor with even higher taxes,” he continued. “Record taxing, spending and borrowing will not make New Jersey stronger or fairer, it will only lead to a more expensive state and a continued exodus of families, friends and neighbors.”

Helping Seniors

Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-37) praised the proposal to fund the Homestead Benefit and Senior Freeze programs in the fiscal year 2021 budget.

“For our seniors, the Homestead Benefit and Senior Freeze programs are a lifeline, allowing many to stay in their homes and age with dignity,” said Huttle, chair of the Assembly Aging and Senior Services Committee. “These programs are vital to supporting New Jersey’s seniors, disabled, low and middle-income residents. By funding these programs, we can ensure that the roughly 680,000 New Jerseyans who rely on the Homestead Benefit and Senior Freeze programs have the support that they need during this challenging time.”

Starting Point

Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin (D-29) found that the governor’s proposed budget plan provides the Legislature with a clear starting point with some tough choices needed to be made in the coming weeks, but there is room for optimism as well.

“I am particularly pleased to see that the proposal protects the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit. Each of these provide critical resources to New Jersey families, especially those struggling now,” said Pintor Marin, who is Assembly Budget Committee Chair.

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