Gov. Phil Murphy doubled down on his push for lawmakers to include $21.5 million from opioid manufacturer fees in his budget, suggesting the Legislature has sided with those manufacturers for nixing the proposed fees.
“The Legislature’s budget gives them a pass. The Legislature has protected the opioid industry’s interests and profits,” Murphy said at a press conference in Ewing on Tuesday, where he was flanked by Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson and outgoing Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal.
The Murphy administration said revenue from the fees would help bolster the state’s existing $100 million anti-opioid programs.
Murphy’s proposal would levy a $250,000 fee against manufacturers and wholesalers who “sell, deliver or distributed” up to one million units of opioids, $1 million for those who produce between one million and two million units of opioids, and $5 million for anyone who deals with over five million units of opioids.
“This omission leads one to ask the very simple question… whose side are you on?” Murphy added.
The offices of Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District, and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-19th District, did not immediately return a request for comment.
Critics of the opioid manufacturers’ fee opined that the costs would ultimately be passed down to the patients, but Johnson and Elnahol disagreed, arguing that programs such as the state’s medical marijuana system would wean patients off opioids to the point that opioids are not prescribed to patients in the first place.
The state Legislature’s $38.7 billion budget includes the majority of what Murphy wanted – “90-something percent,” the governor said at a press conference Monday in Newark.
But it cuts out roughly a half billion dollars of revenue from a so-called “millionaire’s tax” – $30 million from a $125 corporate responsibility fee” on certain employers whose workers enroll in Medicaid, $1.4 million from the proposed firearms fee and $3.2 million from the proposed ammunition fee.
At a June 21 press conference, the governor flexed his constitutional gubernatorial authority: the ability to line-item veto specific spending priorities in the $38.7 billion budget the Legislature sent him if lawmakers do not approve a millionaire’s tax.
With a June 30 deadline, Murphy has the option to line-item veto spending proposals in the budget and then approve the spending plan—an alternative to an outright refusal to sign the state budget which would prompt a government shutdown.