Governor blames lack of federal relief
(The Center Square) – New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said the fiscal year 2021 budget he signed Tuesday “lives up to the ideal of shared sacrifice in trying times by including meaningful tax fairness.”
The $32.7 million budget approved by the Legislature along party lines reinstates the millionaire’s tax on income over $1 million and adds a 2.5% surcharge on corporate profits over $1 million. The spending plan also includes $4.5 billion in borrowing from the federal government and a predicted $2.5 billion surplus.
Standing behind a podium that said “Middle Class Tax Relief,” the governor said it wasn’t the tax package alone that created a fairer budget, citing a plan to give couples with children up to $500 in tax rebates next year.
But some did not share the governor’s opinion of the budget. Assemblyman Hal Wirth said “disappointment is an understatement” and that he is “disgusted” by the budget.
“Reality is that the money taxed by government is money taken away from the people. More money that goes toward the government is less money for workers in wages, salaries or even the chance to be employed,” said Hal Wirths, the Assembly Republican budget officer. “New Jersey has been shut down more strictly and longer than any other state in the nation. New Jersey will be the only state in the nation to increase spending and increase debt, people are continuing to file new unemployment claims and small businesses continue to close.”
Senate Republican budget officer Steven Oroho said the budget with the included $4.5 billion in federal borrowing will “cost New Jersey dearly.”
“That massive debt increase avoided constitutional scrutiny by state voters, and will be used not for basic services but to create a fake ‘surplus’ for the administration to spend at will,” Oroho said in a statement. “While families, seniors and employers continue to struggle with economic hardships created by the pandemic, this budget is glaringly bereft of fiscal reforms and packed tight with tax increases and borrowing.
Murphy placed some of the blame on the federal government for not reaching a stimulus package that include relief for states.
“The feds didn’t come up and step up as we need them to do,” Murphy said. “So other than that early COVID money that you will remember, we’ve been preaching that New Jersey – not just blue states but states of all shapes and stripes and sizes – we need a big slug of federal money, and we had to do this without that.”
The state received $2.4 billion in funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. Some of the money has not been spent and is earmarked for specific needs, Murphy said previously.
The budget drew criticism from business and industry groups.
“We have contended from the beginning of this process that the excessive spending, borrowing and taxation found in this budget were, in fact, not necessary and not COVID-19 related,” New Jersey Business & Industry Association President and CEO Michele Siekerka said in a statement. “With $215 billion in debt, a crushing business climate and a continued appetite to tax and spend, New Jersey simply cannot continue along this path.”
Tom Bracken, president of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, said recently, “Everyone in New Jersey should be equally outraged at the political sleight-of-hand and lack of transparency that added hundreds of millions of dollars in new expenses funded by additional debt.”
The budget “contains more proof that the budget is about politics and not responsible fiscal management,” Bracken said in a statement.