Gov. Phil Murphy suggested he could line-item veto “hundreds of millions of dollars in pork spending” from the state Legislature’s budget if no agreement is made on the millionaire’s tax, which he has been seeking. Though he did assure that he would fulfill his “constitutional requirement” to sign the budget “within the next nine days,” he later said, speaking at a press conference in Trenton, that “all options are on the table.”
Lawmakers have until midnight on July 1 to sign a budget or Murphy will have to order a government shutdown.
The Legislature’s $38.7 billion budget for fiscal year 2020 does not include the proposed 10.75 percent tax levy on every dollar earned above $1 million – a key policy proposal on which Murphy has campaigned.
Lawmakers also cut out the $30 million from the $125 “corporate responsibility” fee on certain employers whose workers enroll in Medicaid, $1.4 million from the proposed firearms fee, $3.2 million from the proposed ammunition fee and $21.5 million from fees on opioid manufacturers.
It also cuts the $317 million proposed rainy day fund and puts the money into the now-proposed $1.4 billion surplus, which lawmakers argue gives Murphy flexibility with how to use the money.
“You have no credibility if someone argues on the one hand that ‘we’re on the fiscal death spiral’ and then backs up the truck and add hundreds of millions of dollars in pork spending. Those two concepts do not compute,” Murphy said at a press conference Friday afternoon.
The comment was a nod to an often-used phrase by one of Murphy’s biggest political rivals – Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District – as he pushes for a series of proposals to cut public worker pension and health care spending.
Sweeney’s office could not be immediately reached for a reaction.
The Legislature’s budget includes spending such for dozens of local projects. They include $750,000 for the East Brunswick Senior Center, $3 million for the Turtle Back Zoo, $120,000 for the Bergen Family Center Teen Center, $250,000 for the Morris Canal Park in Jersey City and $1 million for the East Orange General Hospital.
The budget also proposes $5 million for Cooper University Hospital, where Sweeney ally and South Jersey political powerbroker George Norcross serves as chairman of the board of trustees.
But Murphy has not indicated what he would remove from the budget if he utilizes his gubernatorial line-item veto authority.
“We need to be serious about saving for tomorrow and putting our excess revenues in our rainy day fund,” Murphy added.
This story was updated at 6:13 p.m., June 21, 2019.