Legislature’s budget applauded by business community – but, most likely, not the governor

The Legislature approved a $38.7 billion budget Thursday, which now awaits the governor’s signature — or veto.

And since the budget is missing one key revenue source Gov. Phil Murphy has been pushing for months — a millionaire’s tax — most feel a veto is coming.

The business community made its feelings known, applauding the budget as is.

“We are pleased that the budget advanced by the Legislature today forgoes tax increases when New Jersey taxpayers have clearly had enough,” New Jersey Business & Industry Association CEO and President Michelle Siekerka said.

“New Jersey desperately needs fiscal reform, not more taxes. Proponents of the millionaires tax often cite two reasons for their support: It’s popular and they contend it’s fairer to ask them to pay ‘a little bit more.’

“We respectfully offer that the wealthiest 1.5% of our residents are already paying 40% of the state’s annual gross income tax revenue. We should not be giving those residents any more reason to consider leaving our great state, particularly when we have yet to fix our structural deficiencies that have contributed to the state’s long-term debt obligations increasing 382% from 2007-2017. We have already seen a net loss of nearly $25 billion in adjusted gross income in the most recent 12 years of data.”

Not everyone was happy.

Assemblyman John DiMaio (R-Hackettstown) criticized the Democratic-controlled Legislature for failing to fully fund the state’s pension obligations despite spending $5 billion more since Murphy took office.

“With five-billion dollars, we should have been able to be more aggressive with that,” DiMaio said. “Then force that money to go back to reduce local tax levies and help our local property taxpayers.”

Legislative leaders have said the budget includes many of Murphy’s priorities, except for the additional tax.

Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin (D-Newark), who serves as the budget chair, said the budget makes sense financially.

“We’ve listened to constituent concerns, taken into account OLS and the Administration’s budget testimony to devise a spending plan that builds on the progress we’ve made in the last few years,” she said.

“We’ve moved forward today to once again deliver a fiscally responsible budget that provides more funding for property tax relief, seniors, veterans, higher education, community colleges, NJ Transit and without broad-based taxes. With a healthy surplus of over $1.4 billion, our budget meets our residents’ priorities and includes the governor’s priorities providing a record pension payment of $3.8 billion.

“Importantly, we’ve heard the call from various sectors to help ease the impact of the minimum wage increase on Personal Care Assistants and Direct Service Providers. Our budget fixes this problem and also provides property tax relief and increased funding for NJ Transit, $50 million more than the governor proposed. Our budget sets New Jersey on the right path for the next fiscal year.”

Siekerka reiterated that after last year’s pentamillionaire’s tax and increased corporate business tax, which makes New Jersey one of the highest tax states, the state should not include another increase.

“Again, now is not the time for new or added taxes,” she said.

“It is time to comprehensively address our underfunded pensions and right-size public workers’ health benefit costs, so we can put New Jersey on a more sustainable and fiscally responsible path.”