NJ has billions of extra revenue; Republicans accuse Murphy administration of keeping them in the dark
After years of scrounging for funding at budget time, New Jersey lawmakers say that the state now has more money than they know what to do with. And with just three weeks go to before the state budget deadline, Republicans say that the Murphy administration is cutting them out of choices on how to use the $4 billion tax windfall.
“It’s unprecedented. The whole time I’ve been here, we’ve been dealing with shortfalls,” says Republican state Sen. Declan O’Scanlon.
Since Gov. Phil Murphy’s budget message in February, the state has found itself with an extra $4 billion than it planned for, as the economy roars back from the pandemic.
“We have a lot more money than we anticipated and it’s time to give it back to the taxpayers,” says Republican state Sen. Sam Thompson.
Republicans on Thursday demanded the Murphy administration include them in talks about where the money should go before the final budget is signed on June 30.
“We’ve been essentially shut out, left in the dark,” says Republican state Sen. Mike Testa.
This comes the day after State Treasurer Elizabeth Muoio abruptly canceled her planned appearance before the Senate budget committee.
“Frankly, the administration is hiding their treasurer from us because they’re frankly concerned about the questions that will be asked of her in a budget hearing,” Testa says.
Muoio did send in written testimony, which said in part, "…state tax collections in Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) are hitting historic highs…. We have not only returned to pre-pandemic levels, but we have jumped past those levels."
A two-month tax collection surge in April and May means the Murphy administration has $2.4 billion more in income tax payments, $1 billion in corporate tax payments, and more than half a billion more in sales tax than it planned for.
“You have two pots of revenue – one is the stimulus money and the other is tax revenue,” says Thompson.
With all of this money, plus $4 billion more borrowed during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Murphy's plans to put over $10 billion away for an emergency, Republicans want to talk about more property tax rebates, paying off debt or making bigger pension payments.
“The time is now, we need to have this discussion,” Testa says.
Democratic Senate Budget Chair Paul Sarlo said Treasurer Muoio has submitted her final budget report. Sarlo says stimulus money should be used to pay off debt and plug funding gaps.