State lawmakers say Gov. Murphy cut them out of decisions regarding federal COVID funds
Top Democrats in the state Legislature say they are not happy with Gov. Phil Murphy. They say that the governor cut them out of the decision on how to spend billions of dollars in COVID stimulus money. Murphy did include lawmakers in the process last year.
“We know this is a nonstarter for the Legislature. We know they’re not going to bend on this,” says Micah Rasmussen, with the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics.
During a Senate budget hearing earlier this week, Democratic state Sen. Paul Sarlo told state Treasurer Liz Muoio the Legislature would not pass any budget that didn't give lawmakers a say in how to spend the federal stimulus money.
"It's a non-negotiable item and will have to be put in before we go any further. I think it's something we agreed upon, we're all in this together and we have an obligation to ensure these federal dollars are properly spent,” Sarlo said.
Rasmussen says the dispute could lead to a state government shutdown if the governor stands his ground.
"I think it would be insane if it did, because everybody knows - at this early date we know - we have three months between now and the end of the fiscal year,” he says.
A bipartisan panel of lawmakers last year had the final say on spending hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of earlier COVID funds. Republicans criticized that committee as giving the governor a rubber stamp.
The state budget must be passed by July 1, which is the beginning of the state's fiscal year.