The top Senate Democrat decried Gov. Phil Murphy’s second annual State of the State address for failing to take on major issues such as affordability and taxation.
“To me, there was a lack of a whole lot of substance,” Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District, told reporters at the statehouse Thursday afternoon, following an New Jersey Transit legislative committee hearing. Asked what he would have liked to see, the Senate President suggested oft-promoted stances of “reducing property taxes or focusing on affordability in New Jersey, besides just talking about raising taxes.”
“The only thing is ‘raise sales tax, raise opioid tax, raise the millionaire’s tax’, without addressing what’s wrong,” added Sweeney, an often-times political foe of Murphy.
Murphy used his address on Tuesday to once again push for a millionaire’s tax, which has been twice-blocked by legislative leadership. In recent weeks, the governor has also started campaigning to build public support for fees on opioid and ammunition manufacturers, fees on certain employers with workers enrolled in Medicaid and raising the state sales tax again from 6.625 percent to 7 percent.
It remains to be seen which of these initiatives will end up in the governor’s 2021 budget proposal, to be unveiled in March.
A spokesperson for the governor’s office, Alyana Alfaro, pointed to the governor’s veto of a Sweeney-sponsored bill that would allow certain school districts to raise property taxes beyond 2 percent, as “evidence that the governor is committed to reducing the burden for already over-encumbered middle and working-class taxpayers.”
“Gov. [Phil] Murphy has also renewed the call for a millionaire’s tax because by asking the wealthy in our state to pay their fair share, we can invest more in education and property tax relief for New Jersey’s middle class,” she said. “Gov. Murphy has repeatedly discussed changing structural issues in Trenton. He is committed to changing how things are done, is focusing on improving New Jersey for the coming generations, and believes that fiscal responsibility is critical for the state’s future”
Sweeney’s comments mirrored many of those of by Republican lawmakers and business advocates following Murphy’s Tuesday address.