Republican lawmakers criticize Democrats for speed of state budget process

Criticism of Gov. Phil Murphy and Democratic leaders is growing for the breakneck pace on the state budget process. Republicans say the budget is being rammed through almost sight unseen.

News 12 Staff

Jun 23, 2021, 11:10 PM

Updated 1,036 days ago

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It is known as “Christmas time” in Trenton – that time of the year when lawmakers stack the state budget with last-minute pet projects.
But the last-minute push comes as criticism of Gov. Phil Murphy and Democratic leaders is growing for the breakneck pace on the state budget process. Republicans say the budget is being rammed through almost sight unseen.
“The slush funds that are in this budget, the money that will be doled out all over the state by this administering, is going to be obscene,” says Republican state Sen. Declan O’Scanlon.
There are millions for museums in Newark and Jersey City, $15 million to knock down vacant homes in Camden, and over $1 million for the Battleship New Jersey moored nearby. There is also $10 million to buy school buildings in North Bergen, where the mayor who is also a state senator, is a key ally of the governor. These are all last-minute additions to the budget, with taxpayers footing the bill.
“The process has been a really good one, I have to say,” Gov. Murphy said on Wednesday, one day before the final vote on the budget.
The governor highlighted positives in his budget, from a surplus to higher pension payments.
“It is a tradition that there be a combination of governor-initiated programs and expenditures and legislative-initiated programs and expenditures. And that budget has this reality as well,” Murphy said.
But the breakneck speed of the whole budget process has angered everyone from progressive groups to Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli.
“It was $110 million in one fell swoop. And there were four or five others. Out of 15 bills. Maybe more than that. That no one had seen,” O’Scanlon says.
During committee votes on Thursday, Republicans in the Assembly and Senate complained they were being asked to vote on bills that they hadn't even seen yet, and that Democrats went along with it.
“The powers that be, the fear of a very powerful governor prohibits them from having the backbone to step up and demand that we do things better,” O’Scanlon says. “I would suggest to you if people are being honest, the biggest bill we did yesterday, that spends a lot of money, that no one knew what was in it, is the budget itself, over $45 billion.”
The full, final budget was released to the public on Tuesday afternoon. The Senate Budget Committee approved it 11 minutes later.
The budget deal between the governor and top Democrats was first announced Monday morning.
The final votes on the budget are scheduled for Thursday afternoon.


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