The governor vetoed two “mid-year” spending bills, arguing his skittishness with allocating state dollars by means other than the typical budget process – which runs from early March to June 30 – just a week after signing another such a measure.
One bill would make sure that more tax dollars from wine sales in the state go toward boosting the wine industry. Another would allocate $500,000 a year to Greenwood Lake in North Jersey.
“Rather than attempting to make mid-year changes to our agreed-upon budget structure, a more appropriate approach to dealing with funding choices such as those presented by this bill is through the annual budget process,” Gov. Phil Murphy wrote in his Jan. 9 veto statement for Senate Bill 2167.
Last week, he signed a bill appropriating nearly $10 million to Planned Parenthood to make up for Title X dollars lost by not taking part in the federal gag rule on abortions.
All three moves come as half of the $235 million that Murphy froze when he signed the state’s current budget over the summer is still held up in reserve.
That was noted by Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District.
“The executive order was never necessary, and revenues have continued to exceed expectations,” Sweeney said in a Jan. 2 statement. “ The order has already resulted in the extermination of the state’s vote by mail program, delayed higher educational opportunities for New Jersey’s college students, and put services for cancer patients at risk.”
With revenue numbers performing far better than expected, mainly due to a windfall from the increased corporate business tax, according to the state treasury, it is still not certain when between now and June 30 that money might actually be released.
Water and wine
The first measure vetoed by Murphy, S2167, called for the state to allocate $500,000 from the Maritime Industry Fund toward restoration of Greenwood Lake, a 7-mile body of water straddling the New York-Passaic County border.
The other proposal, Senate Bill 3509, would boost the amount of dollars that go into New Jersey’s Wine Promotion Account, so that the pot of money receives all the tax dollars from the sale of wine. Right now, the account gets 53.7 percent to boost the industry and the rest goes to the general fund to plug holes elsewhere in the budget.
“Funding decisions should not be made in a vacuum or through an ad hoc approach that segregates certain tax revenue and dedicates it to a particular purpose without consideration of the broader process of allocating resources to the competing programs, services, interests, and obligations,” Murphy wrote in both veto messages.
When signing the budget, Murphy cut nearly $50 million of spending, on top of the frozen $235 million, arguing that the state might not have the revenue dollars to support the allocation.
Among the money put in reserve was tens of million of dollars for different projects related to the Cooper University Health System – where South Jersey powerbroker, and Sweeney ally, George Norcross serves as chairman of the board . The Senate President in turn accused the governor of making the decision as part of an effort to politically twist Norcross’ arm.