(The Center Square) – New Jersey Republicans are questioning a bill that would allow Gov. Phil Murphy to borrow $5 billion from the federal government to cover budget shortfalls due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The state Assembly’s Budget Committee gave their OK to the “New Jersey Covid-19 Emergency Bond Act” on Monday. The full Assembly is set to vote on the plan Thursday.
The money is being sought to prevent what the Murphy administration says will be massive cuts to the budget. The shortfall is around $10 billion, according to state Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio.
But some Republicans say a 2004 state Supreme Court case that prohibits bonds from being used as state revenue may make the issue moot.
“I know there will be massive cuts,” said Assemblyman Rod Clifton, R-Monmouth. “But has it been gamed out of how to deal with this if the courts rule like they ruled in 2004.”
Others have offered alternatives to a bond. Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso, R-Monmouth, is backing a plan that would allow New Jersey residents to keep what they would pay in federal income tax.
“It seems to me that it would be a better plan,” DiMaso said. “We are all talking about tax cuts. We are all saying we don’t want to raise taxes.”
Assemblyman Hal Wirths, R-Sussex, called for a referendum.
“New Jerseyans are smart,” Wirths said. “Why can’t we ask the voters for approval to make sure it’s done properly?”
Assemblyman Jay Webber, R-Morris, called the bill unconstitutional in light of recent stay-at-home orders issued by Murphy because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Governor Murphy has put nine million residents of our state on lockdown for months, imposing arbitrary restrictions on all of us that carry the force of law, and then threatening, shaming, and punishing those who defy his orders,” Webber said. “But to fuel his spending ambitions, Governor Murphy ignores the most fundamental law of our state: the New Jersey Constitution.
The bill is also opposed by the New Jersey Business and Industry Alliance.
Democrats are supporting the plan but with some reluctance.
“We do not make this decision lightly.” said Eliana Pintor Marin, D-Essex, who chairs the Assembly Budget Committee. “The historic nature of the current pandemic has led to this unprecedented last resort due to the current fiscal crisis.”
Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin announced last month he was scheduling a vote for Thursday.
“While not ideal, I will support the borrowing of necessary funds through bonding, provided the sacrifice is spread evenly and that proper legislative oversight is included, to ensure our economic position is strengthened for both the present and future,” Coughlin said.
republished here with permission