Despite Dem approval of Murphy budget, GOP warn of new taxes after election year

Daniel J. Munoz//February 24, 2021

Despite Dem approval of Murphy budget, GOP warn of new taxes after election year

Daniel J. Munoz//February 24, 2021

Gov. Phil Murphy’s nearly $45 billion spending plan proposed on Feb. 23 garnered a rare instance of warm approval from Democratic leadership in the state Legislature – it does after all have no new taxes or fees.

But with Murphy’s seat up for reelection this November, as well as all 120 seats in the Democratic-controlled Legislature, Republicans are cautioning that the lack of tax increases in this proposal – a first for the Democratic governor – are only due to the fact that the state is in such a contentious election year.

“Every time you have an election year, the governor says there’ll be no new taxes and no new fees,” Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick, R-21st District, said in a press conference following the budget address.

The spending plan, he and other Republicans warned, does not factor in a major collapse of revenue in the years ahead.

And indeed, come the fiscal year 2023 budget which goes into effect on July 1, 2023, the $4 billion of borrowed funds will have lapsed by then, while federal COVID-19 relief funds might be more scarce.

The administration is hedging its bets that tax revenue will be buoyed by a robust economic recovery by then. But in the meantime, the state plans to tap into half of the $4 billion in its rainy day fund. They’ve not said whether they would pursue tax increases come this time next year.

“His proposed budget would spend down billions in surplus, which won’t be sustainable beyond a single year,” Sen. Steven Oroho, R-24th District, said in a Feb. 23 statement. “If Governor Murphy is reelected, it’s an absolute certainty he’ll call for tax increases next year to keep his spending spree going.”

A similar point was raised by one fellow Democrat, Sen. Paul Sarlo, D-36th District, who chairs the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. He pointed to a potential “‘fiscal cliff’ with the drop-off of revenue in the near future.”

“The economy continues to be fragile so we should not be near-sighted about fiscal conditions,”  Sarlo said.

The top elected official in the legislature’s lower chamber – Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-19th District – said in a Feb. 23 statement that he was “encouraged” by several proposals in the state spending plan, including the tax rebates and a freeze on tax increases.

“I look forward to a thorough and robust review of the proposed budget’s spending and to looking for ways to achieve savings and reduce debt reliance,” he continued.

And Coughlin’s upper house counterpart – Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District – meanwhile spoke positively of the budget.

“This year’s budget has the finances to support a full pension payment, property tax relief, and aid to our most vulnerable,” Sweeney, who’s often clashed with Murphy and twice blocked his millionaire’s tax proposal, said in a tweet.

The Senate President ultimately agreed to the millionaire’s tax last year.

Former GOP Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for governor, said Murphy wrongly “casts himself as the state’s savior” in his budget address.

“It’s an insult.”