After clearing the the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee and the Assembly Budget Committee on Monday, the full chambers of both the state Assembly and Senate are slated to vote Thursday on the Legislature’s proposed $38.8 billion spending plan – a budget Gov. Phil Murphy lambasted as lacking “tax fairness” because it does not include his proposed millionaire’s tax.
The legislative plan presented Monday will be very close to the $38.6 billion budget Murphy introduced in March, but it will be supported by $38.8 billion in revenue, and finish with a closing balance of $1.4 billion – over $250 million more than the governor’s proposal.
Following the votes on Thursday, if approved, the measure will head to Murphy’s desk.
“The budget introduced today falls short on the principle of tax fairness,” Murphy said in a statement Monday evening. “It leaves us without the stable and sustainable revenues to secure the investments we seek to make in our people and our state.”
The governor will have the option to sign the budget, line-item veto whatever he does not like in the spending plan, veto it in full, or hash out further agreements about how to amend the spending plan.
“Through this budget process and beyond, I will continue advocating for tax fairness, a New Jersey that puts the middle class ahead of the special interests, along with sound fiscal practices that will provide stability and set our state up for long-term success,” Murphy added.
Murphy and legislative leaders, all Democrats, have until July 1 to agree on a budget for the 2020 fiscal year to avoid the governor having to order a government shutdown. Last year, the administration narrowly avoided that path when it announced a deal just hours before midnight on June 30.
This vs. that
The Legislature’s budget will keep Murphy’s $3.8 billion proposed pension payment – the largest deposit to date. But, lawmakers did away with a proposed $317 million deposit into the state’s rainy day fund, a proposal from the governor’s office legislative leaders have argued is inappropriate given the many bills New Jersey still has to pay.
The $1.4 billion closing balance could, in essence, be used as a rainy day fund, according to Assembly Budget Chair Eliana Pintor-Marin, D-29th District, but it would not be restricted to just that fund.
“That is a good number, it gives him a big cushion,” Senate Budget Chair Paul Sarlo, D-36th District, told reporters following the Senate budget committee meeting on Monday.
Murphy lambasted the elimination of money strictly for the rainy day fund, however, which he said would leave “New Jerseyans less prepared for an economic downtown.
“So, at this point, as I have stated again and again, every option is on the table,” Murphy added.
“There’s no new broad-based taxes on it. I think he’s just going to have to overcome that. I think that’s something we’ll have to look at when there’s a crisis down the road,” Sarlo added.
The legislative budget proposes an additional $50 million for New Jersey Transit, on top of the $25 million net increase Murphy proposed. That spending would not, as some advocates worried, entail raiding money from elsewhere in the budget. “There’s no raids, no diversions… from the NJ Turnpike [Authority],” Sarlo said. “There’s no diversions or gimmicks here.”
Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District, Murphy’s often-time political opponent, has fiercely opposed the inclusion of a millionaire’s tax in the state’s spending plan, as has Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-19th District, who said the state’s finances are strong enough that there would be no point for that level of extra taxation.
Murphy’s proposal, meanwhile, would levy a 10.75 percent tax rate on every dollar earned above $1 million, which his office argued would earn $536 million more for the state.
The governor initially dangled $250 million of property tax relief to residents in exchange for the tax proposal, but that did not suffice for lawmakers.
The Legislature’s budget does propose $250 million for the gross income tax property tax credit and $173 million for property tax relief.
The state’s senior property tax freeze program would see $18 million more under the proposed legislative budget, and the expansion of the veteran property tax deduction program, which is expected to cost roughly $23 million.
The proposal infuses $65 million to field the costs of wage increases for direct support professionals, who handle the care of intellectually and developmentally disabled individuals. And, the plan also proposes $48 million to study and provide grants towards municipal-level shared services – one of the three focus areas of Sweeney’s “Path to Progress” proposals on cutting local government spending.
Monday’s budget also includes local add-ons such as $3 million to the Turtle Back Zoo, $750,000 to the East Brunswick Senior Center and $5 million towards Cooper University Hospital.
“Our budget funds Legislative Democrats’ priorities and the Governor’s priorities,” Coughlin said in a statement Monday. “The spending plan includes significant and much-needed increases in funding for property tax relief, seniors, veterans, higher education, community colleges, NJ Transit and more.”