Lawmakers pick apart Gov. Murphy’s budget ahead of Oct. 1 deadline
The New Jersey Legislature is taking a hard look at Gov. Phil Murphy’s new budget.
The governor’s plan would rely on $4.4 billion of borrowing, spending cuts and tax increases to balance a budget impacted by COVID-19.
By 12:01 a.m. on Oct. 1, the Legislature must pass and the governor must sign a balanced budget or the state will shut down. The back and forth on what to keep in and leave out of the governor's nine-month spending plan began in the state Senate on Tuesday.
Some Republicans in the Legislature have objected to parts of the budget, particularly the borrowing.
“Absolutely horrific fiscal planning and horrific fiscal policy,” says Republican state Sen. Declan O’Scanlon. “Makes no sense and will cost the taxpayers of New Jersey dearly going down the road.”
Republicans questioned why the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services estimates the amount of money collected in taxes this year will be $1.4 billion more than the Murphy administration estimates.
“It's a massive discrepancy. And there's discrepancies now in gross income tax, the corporate business tax, those are the three big taxes. Their numbers are garbage,” O’Scanlon says.
Murphy says that the state is looking into the discrepancy.
“We need to be very prudent but the short answer is we're looking at their numbers,” he says.
The Treasury Department says its estimates of tax revenue come from April, the low point of tax collection, when the pandemic was at its peak. Murphy in his budget has proposed several tax increases – including his long-desired millionaires tax and hikes in cigarette taxes and handgun fees.
“Any budget has an enormous amount of negotiation associated with it but there are certain pieces that have to be sacrosanct,” Murphy says.
That includes a full $4.9 billion pension payment that Murphy says is nonnegotiable.
The budget plan does not account for a potential second wave of COVID-19. State Treasurer Elizabeth Muoio says a second wave could have a billion-dollar impact on the state budget.