It was hard to tell what part of the budget compromise was more bothersome to Republicans: The increase in taxes, or what they called a celebration of the increase in taxes by Democratic leaders.
“It was like a birthday party for new taxes,” Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) said at a Sunday morning news conference he held with Assemblyman Anthony Bucco (R-Randolph).
Bramnick said he was stunned when he watched Gov. Phil Murphy announce the compromise with state Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Woodbridge).
“Why would that turn into a party?” he asked. “Giving each other high fives and hugging each other and smiling as if they just won a sporting event.
“What they did was, they increased taxes in New Jersey on the overtaxed people of the state of New Jersey and the smiles were as wide and broad as I’ve ever seen.
“That’s why I think Murphy and his team are out of touch.”
Bramnick said he is concerned with how the compromise will hurt the New Jersey economy.
“Let me talk about these new taxes on so-called millionaires; people who make more than $5 million,” he said. “If you think these executives and these job creators don’t feel as if this is an insult to them and they’re not going to move into Pennsylvania or New York or move to Florida, you’re also dead wrong.
“If you think there’s no consequence, taxing these very successful people, and if you think they are going to take that lying down and pay another $100,000 or $200,000 in taxes, the governor is wrong.”
Bramnick said he’s concerned on the impact this will have on the middle class.
“We’re not here to defend millionaires, we’re here to defend the people of New Jersey who overwhelmingly believe we’re overtaxed,” he said.
“So, this party that the Murphy administration had, in my judgement, was absolutely wrong. And there was not one discussion, not one comment, not one word on cutting spending. How do you not address those issues? How do you not comment on the reforms that are needed?”
Bramnick said the Democrats’ failure to work with others eventually will hurt others.
“Let’s talk about Gov. Murphy’s approach,” he said. “I think he disregarded many of the interest groups during this negotiation.
“Who was at the table during the last two weeks representing the job creators in this state. Was there anyone there from the (New Jersey) Chamber of Commerce, small business groups? Anyone there from (the New Jersey Business & Industry Association)?
“No. It was a group of Democrats who believe, based on what Murphy said, that they had a mandate to raise taxes on the people of New Jersey. They are dead wrong.”
He said the Democrats eventually ignored their own concerns — the ones they repeatedly raised during the negotiations.
“We heard Gov. Murphy say that you can’t increase the corporate business tax because corporations will leave,” Bucco said. “We heard the Senate president respond, ‘You can’t increase the income tax, because it will drive our high wage-earners out of state.’
“Incredibly, and only in New Jersey, the compromise that was reached raised both taxes. Which one was right? And how could they have ignored their own arguments? The fact of the matter is, they are both right (to have concerns). And they know it.
“The impact of raising both taxes is that the state will lose high-wage earners, the state will have trouble attracting corporations here, will lose those corporations that are on the tilting point. And with those high-wage earners and those corporations will go jobs and tax revenue.”
This, Bucco said, is where the middle class is punished.
“Who does that really hurt?” he asked. “It really hurts the very people that they are trying to protect.
“When you lose that revenue, that means the people that are left here, who can’t afford to leave the state, end up paying more. And, when you lump on top of that the tax on Airbnb, the tax on Uber and Lyft, the tax on hospital visits, the tax on utility bills, the garbage bag tax.
“When all of those other taxes hit the middle- and low-income wage earners, it’s going to be devastating here in New Jersey. And that’s what I think this administration and the Democratic leadership misses.”
Bucco said he fears this is just the start.
“This is just the beginning, because it won’t stop here,” he said. “The spending will continue to increase, and, in order to meet that spending, you’ll continue to have to see tax increases.”
Bramnick feels voters will not be happy. And he feels the Murphy administration has overplayed the mandate it feels it got by winning the election.
“It was a vote — and he won,” Bramnick said. “Maybe it was an anti-(Chris) Christie vote. Maybe it was an anti-(Donald) Trump vote. But it wasn’t a pro-tax vote.
“And, I believe, when the people of this state realize what the Murphy administration is doing, the reaction will be overwhelming.”
Read more from ROI-NJ:
- Budget compromise still working its way through Legislature on Sunday; some suggest snag over combined reporting
- It’s not revenue, it’s relationships: Why Murphy’s legacy is tied to business community’s willingness to go along with his plans (Editor’s Desk)
- Business community surprised, upset to see ‘combined reporting’ in corporate business tax
- Business group leaders apprehensive about budget: Siekerka says, ‘This is all a big ask of business’
- Friends or foes: Why one political scientist is still worried about governor’s relationship with Legislature
- Budget agreement reached; shutdown avoided