At a signing ceremony at Cranford High School on Thursday, Gov. Phil Murphy officially signed the state’s record $50.6 billion Fiscal Year 2023 budget bill into law.
The signing caps a marathon finale week in a month-long process that centered around how to spend and allocate record surpluses from tax collections as well as leftover American Rescue Fund money. The top line items include the $2 billion ANCHOR Property Tax Relief program, $2 billion for school funding, a full pension payment, as well as $6.78 billion in surplus to guard against future economic downturns, and more than $4 billion in a debt defeasance and debt avoidance fund.
“So almost four months ago, when I provided my proposed budget to the Legislature, I asked them to join with me and with my administration in common cause to make New Jersey more affordable for our middle-class and working families and for our seniors,” said Murphy. “They responded. And today we are collectively delivering. I’m proud of the partnership that we have enjoyed and the progress we have made. And today, I am proud to sign the budget for the state of New Jersey.”
Murphy was joined at the signing ceremony in the Cranford High School library by Senate President Nick Scutari, D-22nd District; Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-19th District; Senate Budget Chairman Paul Sarlo, D-36th District; Assembly Budget Chairwoman Eliana Pintor Marin, D-29th District; Treasurer Elizabeth Muoio; and Cranford Mayor Kathleen Prunty.
“This is the first budget of our second term. But like the budgets of our first term, it seeks to make New Jersey an even better place to call home,” said Murphy.
In addition to ANCHOR, which he believes could provide property tax relief to between 5.5 million and 5.7 million New Jerseyans, Murphy pointed to school funding and the substantial surplus that will begin the new budget year.
“With nearly $2 billion, another separate $2 billion supporting school construction and renovation, we are setting up our kids for success while putting forward one of the strongest pushbacks against property taxes in memory, if not ever,” said Murphy. “I am proud that this budget will start with a surplus, which I will certify in a few moments of $6.78 billion.”
“We’ve done three things at the same that they said could not be done – deliver historic relief on affordability, invest aggressively in the future, and be fiscally responsible,” Murphy added.
And while Murphy and Democratic lawmakers took their budget victory lap, that sentiment has not been matched by the business community. A number of business groups released statements panning the budget for not doing enough to help New Jersey businesses.
Tom Bracken, New Jersey Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, said it was an enormous opportunity missed to right our economic ship.
“The state’s $50.6 billion budget becomes law today and a meager $50 million (one-tenth of 1%) is allocated to support the business community in response to our repeated pleas for the state to help small business,” said Bracken in a statement. “To add insult to injury, a plan to counteract an Unemployment Insurance tax hike on employers by using surplus revenue funds was left on the cutting room floor during last-minute budget deliberations.”
Michele Siekerka, New Jersey Business & Industry Association president and CEO, shared the same frustration about that UI bill being cut.
“For over a year, NJBIA has been strongly advocating to stop New Jersey businesses from bearing the full brunt of a $1 billion unemployment insurance tax increase. Most states used federal recovery dollars for that purpose. New Jersey did not,” she said in a statement. “A compromise bill to partially offset those costs for small businesses – without adding cost to the budget – was removed late in Wednesday’s Senate voting session. As a result, New Jersey small businesses will incur another UI tax increase of nearly $300 million tomorrow, July 1, despite the rhetoric that there are no increased taxes in the budget.”
Siekerka and Bracken also noted the positives in the budget, including the pension payment as well as investments in child care, infrastructure, and innovation and workforce development, but still do not feel nearly enough was done to help businesses.
“Ultimately, however, the FY23 budget will be reflected as the one where opportunity knocked to bring substantive and impactful structural change to New Jersey, and our lawmakers didn’t answer,” said Siekerka. “Further, affordability for business never even got to the door.”
“State leaders yesterday said this budget helps working families and middle-class Americans,” said Bracken. “Inexplicably, they don’t make the connection that New Jersey’s small business community represents working families and middle-class Americans too. And their pleas for help were ignored in this budget.”
“Today, Gov. Murphy signed the largest budget in state history – $50.6 billion – in which a mere $50 million was allocated for New Jersey’s small business community,” said Christina Renna, president and CEO, Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey. “This is simply unacceptable as businesses continue to recover from the pandemic.”
“While the $2 billion expansion of the ANCHOR Property Tax Relief Program will bring help to some a year from now, it will be the first program to go when New Jersey’s purse strings tighten,” said Siekerka. “And, notably, that program also excluded relief for New Jersey businesses – even though they pay nearly half of the state’s property taxes every year.”
“The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce hopes there is a plan going forward for New Jersey’s economic revival,” said Bracken. “If there is, we hope it is unveiled soon. The business community and our state need it.”