The lines are pretty good — and what you would expect from the opposition. The four Republicans on the Senate Budget & Appropriations Committee took exception to the proposed 2021 budget Gov. Phil Murphy delivered Tuesday morning.
Sen. Declan O’Scanlon (R-Holmdel): “With the state credit card in his pocket, Gov. Murphy’s budget plan shows none of the fiscal restraint that virtually every family and small business has been forced to exercise due to the coronavirus.”
Sen. Steve Oroho (R-Sparta): “It’s disappointing that the governor isn’t pursuing tax fairness with New York as part of his budget proposal.”
Sen. Sam Thompson (R-Old Bridge): “The governor’s plan to tax and borrow seems designed to pad the budget and allow the administration to embark on a spending spree as we head into an election year.”
Sen. Michael Testa (R-Cape May Court House): “With more of the New Jersey economy reopened, state revenue trends suggest we would have enough money to balance the budget without the need for all of the borrowing Gov. Murphy has proposed.”
The four said the revised budget plan has few changes from the pre-COVID budget Murphy proposed in February — except for the addition of billions in borrowing. They said Murphy continues to oversell the fiscal impact of the coronavirus on the state’s finances, while ignoring opportunities to help taxpayers and get people back to work.
But, will it matter?
New Jersey is a state where the Republican opposition is so small — a state where Murphy’s biggest opposition comes from his own party, starting with State Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) — it may result in little more than screaming into a fan.
Ben Dworkin, the director of the Rowan Institute for Public Policy and Citizenship, said the response is less about today as it is tomorrow. Or, better said, the 2021 election.
“The budget debate is a chance to create your narrative about what’s at stake when New Jersey establishes its priorities,” he told ROI-NJ. “This is especially true for the Legislature’s minority party; today, the Republicans.
“The GOP might not win this budget battle — as the minority almost never does — but they want to set the stage for the larger contest in 2021: the gubernatorial election.”
There is some hope, short-term, Dworkin said.
Democrats in the Legislature are so wanting to regain any of the power it has lost to Murphy during this state of emergency, they may be more likely to partner with the minority party. That’s why, Dworkin said, the most important numbers going forward are 41, 21 and 1.
“These are the bare majorities needed to pass a budget — or any law — in each house of the Legislature, and then be signed by the governor,” he said. “So long as the Democrats are unified enough to provide those numbers to Murphy, the minority party’s influence will remain curtailed significantly.”
For now, the Republicans can only talk a good game.
The following are the complete statements of O’Scanlon, Oroho, Thompson and Testa:
O’Scanlon: “With the state credit card in his pocket, Gov. Murphy’s budget plan shows none of the fiscal restraint that virtually every family and small business has been forced to exercise due to the coronavirus. He wants to borrow billions, which will compound to billions more in interest and fees, to support a budget that demonstrates not one shred of creative cost-cutting reform. Generations of taxpayers will be saddled with this burden. In the end, this budget is little changed from what he proposed spending before COVID hit, when state revenues were still growing. Today, however, it just seems tone deaf to propose spending so much when the people of New Jersey are struggling to pay their bills.”
Oroho: “It’s disappointing that the governor isn’t pursuing tax fairness with New York as part of his budget proposal. It’s not every day that we have the opportunity to lower taxes for hundreds of thousands of New Jerseyans while generating potentially billions in new tax revenues for the state. As an alternative to the borrowing and tax increases the administration has proposed for increasing spending in the state budget, this would seem to be a no-brainer. I’m not sure why the governor refuses to consider the fiscally responsible solutions we’ve proposed.”
Thompson: “Gov. Murphy continues to suggest that New Jersey is in such a dire fiscal situation that we have to beg, borrow and steal from future generations to increase spending in the state budget. All of the revenue data we’re seeing, however, tells a completely different story. Even with the impact of COVID-19, the state is collecting just as much in taxes as it did last year. The governor’s plan to tax and borrow seems designed to pad the budget and allow the administration to embark on a spending spree as we head into an election year. He should allow indoor dining like 47 other states, which would improve state revenues in a responsible manner while helping the 40% of unemployed workers from the hospitality industry to get back to work.”
Testa: “We have seen how resilient the state’s financial picture has been despite Gov. Murphy’s insistence on keeping important segments of the New Jersey economy unnecessarily locked down for too long. His decisions have had a disproportionate impact on low-wage, minority and female workers who have been hit the hardest. If the governor would allow industries still subject to unreasonable restrictions, including restaurants, to implement their plans to reopen safely, as they have in many other states, we could get hundreds of thousands of New Jerseyans back to work. With more of the New Jersey economy reopened, state revenue trends suggest we would have enough money to balance the budget without the need for all of the borrowing Gov. Murphy has proposed.”