North Jersey Republicans gave a thumbs down to Gov. Phil Murphy’s 2022 proposed budget.
Members of both the Assembly and State Senate decried the $44.83 billion spending proposal by the governor on Feb. 23 as not addressing issues that affect the quality of life of everyday New Jerseyans.
State Sen Steve Oroho (R-24) said the budget plan for FY 2022 outlined by Murphy was focused solely on boosting the governor’s reelection campaign and was further proof it was unnecessary for the Murphy Administration to borrow $4.3 billion last November.
Budget for One
“Let’s be perfectly clear. Governor Murphy’s election-year budget is about protecting one job, his own,” stated Oroho. “Senate Republicans have been warning since last June and July that the Murphy Administration was peddling a false doom-and-gloom financial picture despite clear evidence that New Jersey’s finances had rebounded quickly as lockdowns eased.”
Oroho criticized Murphy for choosing to sit on a growing pile of cash while one-third of New Jersey’s small businesses closed and nonprofits and families struggled instead of heeding calls from the GOP to fund urgently needed relief programs.
“Gov. Murphy is doing exactly what we said he would do when the current budget, with its low-ball revenue projections, was under consideration last Fall,” said Oroho, the Senate Republican Budget Officer. “He revealed a massive multi-billion dollar surplus, as predicted, that he’ll start spending this summer as he kicks off his reelection campaign.”
Tax Increases to Come
The GOP State Senator said the claim that there are no tax hikes in the budget is false as payroll taxes are going up this year, hitting the paychecks of employees and employers who are already struggling.
“His proposed budget would spend down billions in surplus, which won’t be sustainable beyond a single year,” said Oroho. “If Gov. Murphy is reelected, it’s an absolute certainty he’ll call for tax increases next year to keep his spending spree going.”
Assemblywoman Aura Dunn found fault with the budget shortchanging schools while funding what she considers six new pet projects to the cost of more than $95 million.
False School Priorities
“The governor’s budget funds more free college and preschool when our kids aren’t even back in the classroom and schools are still being shortchanged to the tune of $700 million,” said Dunn (R-25). “His budget address completely ignored the impact that COVID has had on students and teachers in this state. It’s like he is not living in reality.”
The governor’s proposed budget includes $50 million for a new college program that would pay for the first two years at four-year public universities and $50 million for expanded preschool. According to Dunn’s estimates, if the planned cuts to school districts advance, schools will still be underfunded by $700 million—climbing to $1.5 billion if the cuts to overfunded districts are taken off the table.
“Before we start funding new programs, we should fully fund our schools and devise a statewide reopening plan so that every child has access to the high-quality education they deserve,” stated Dunn. “By kicking the school funding formula can down the road, he is only hurting the ones that he claims his budget will help: students.”
Failure to Fix State IT
Dunn’s district State Senator expressed disappointment that Murphy failed to offer details of plans to modernize and fix critical computer systems.
“Over the past year, millions of New Jerseyans have suffered due to broken and outdated state computer systems that are responsible for unemployment benefits, MVC transactions, and scheduling vaccine appointments,” said State Sen. Anthony M. Bucco (R-25). “When Gov. Murphy is sitting on a multi-billion dollar budget surplus, it’s beyond disappointing that he was unwilling to detail any planned investments in upgrading these critical systems that people depend upon.”
Bucco noted Murphy dedicated only a single sentence of his 45 minute budget message to upgrading the IT infrastructure for the state.
“We now know that the budget surplus is much bigger than we anticipated,” added Bucco. “Fixing the broken systems matters to New Jerseyans, it should matter to Governor Murphy, too. If he really plans on funding these projects, he shouldn’t hide the details.”
Property Taxpayers Forgotten
Meanwhile, Assemblyman Jay Webber said four years into his governorship, Murphy’s budget failed to put property taxpayers first yet again.
Weber (R-26) noted the net increase in property taxes is even higher since the governor slashed homestead property tax relief for seniors, disabled, and middle-income families.
“The cold cruel fact is that as New Jersey enters the fourth year of Gov. Murphy’s reign, average property taxes have soared past the $9,100 mark,” said the Assemblyman. “Budgets are about priorities, and any state budget not making property tax relief a top priority is just out of touch with the burdens and needs of New Jersey’s residents.”