Gov. Phil Murphy’s newly unveiled $48.9 billion spending blueprint for fiscal year 2023 proposes measures to discount property taxes and to provide a year-long fee “holiday” for New Jerseyans entering state parks and motorists renewing their drivers’ licenses.
The Democratic governor in his March 8 address to lawmakers said his budget includes no new taxes or fees and focuses on measures aimed at promoting affordability. To this effect, his budget additionally proposed holding NJ Transit fares constant for the fifth consecutive year. This would make good on a recent campaign pledge that Murphy made in his successful bid for reelection.
His budget proposal additionally would provide a one-year holiday from fees for couples seeking marriage licenses in New Jersey and certain healthcare professionals applying for or renewing their licenses.
‘Stronger, Fairer, and More Affordable’
“The budget I propose…continues the work of the past four years—restoring fiscal responsibility, promoting economic growth, and making New Jersey stronger, fairer, and more affordable for our families and seniors,” Murphy said in a statement accompanying his written budget blueprint.
Under the fiscal responsibility heading, Murphy touted making a full payment to New Jersey’s public pensions for the second straight year and a proposal to put $1.3 billion into a fund for fiscal year 2022 to pay down debt.
Under the economic growth heading, Murphy said his budget aims to spur “ongoing recovery from the pandemic.” He proposed investments in programs that include the New Jersey Apprenticeship Network, which he said has helped nearly double the number of registered apprenticeship programs statewide since 2019. Murphy additionally requested $10 million for the Black and Latino Seed Fund and sought an investment of $65 million in new real estate initiatives, including “a Diverse Developer Fund to ensure that new construction reflects more communities.”
Property Tax Relief
Murphy’s budget plan would replace the Homestead Benefit program with a $900 million program known as ANCHOR—the Affordable New Jersey Communities for Homeowners and Renters (ANCHOR) Property Tax Relief Program.
In budget documents, the Murphy administration projected ANCHOR would provide financial assistance to more than 1.15 million homeowners, double that of the Homestead Benefit, and more than 600,000 renters, all of whom are currently excluded from the Homestead Benefit.
Homeowners earning up to $250,000 a year would receive an average property tax rebate of nearly $700 in FY2023, growing to $1,150 by FY2025 under the plan. Renters earning up to $100,000 would receive a yearly benefit up to $250.
Pension Payment Touted
Murphy touted his budget blueprint’s proposed $6.82 billion payment to public employees’ defined benefit pensions, noting that a move to fully fund the state’s pension contribution in fiscal 2022-2023 would mark “the first time this has happened in consecutive years” in New Jersey since fiscal year 1996.
“In FY2022, Governor Murphy became the first New Jersey governor in a generation to honor commitments to hundreds of thousands of retirees and public sector employees. The FY2022 payment fully funded the State’s Actuarially Determined Contribution (ADC), and provided an additional payment of $505 million, which will save the State more than $2.2 billion over the next 30 years,” Murphy’s administration said in a 101-page outline of Murphy’s budget recommendations.
Additionally, Murphy proposes to make a $1.3 billion deposit in the state’s Debt Defeasance and Prevention Fund for fiscal year 2022. This would be in addition to the $3.7 billion appropriated last June, bringing the total set aside for reducing New Jersey’s debt load to $5 billion, Murphy said.
Additional Budget Plan Provisions
Murphy’s budget blueprint additionally proposes:
- Maintaining Murphy’s “commitment to fully funding the state’s school funding formula with an additional $650 million in K-12 formula aid;”
- Advancing Murphy’s goal of universal Pre-Kindergarten with an additional $68 million for Preschool Education Aid;
- Increasing support for the Educational Opportunity Fund and a higher income threshold for Community College Opportunity Grants to match the Garden State Guarantee’s limits;
- Creating a program with $3 million in one-time funds to help people who did not complete their college education return to school;
- Using $300 million in American Rescue Plan funds to create the Affordable Housing Production Fund that would help build “the entire current backlog of 3,300 already approved, but still yet-to-be-built, 100-percent-affordable housing units” by the end of Murphy’s second term;
- Increasing by $5 million funding for the Down Payment Assistance program, which helps first-time homebuyers purchase homes in New Jersey;
- Capital funding for a new Motor Vehicle Commission center in Newark; and
- A $495,000 funding increase for the state Office of the Corrections Ombudsperson to enable the hiring of more investigators “to ensure the rights of all incarcerated people are protected.”
Body Cams for Edna Mahan Prison Officers
In the area of corrections, Murphy’s budget documents mention the state’s ongoing efforts to close down the troubled Edna Mahan women’s prison in Clinton and re-house its residents.
“While women are still held at Edna Mahan, the State is working to ensure their safety and security by completing the installation of security cameras to cover blind spots and completing the roll out of body worn cameras for all officers,” the Murphy administration said.
The governor’s budget plan requires approval from the Democrat-controlled State Legislature.