Republicans say budget won’t help N.J. — and does come with new taxes

Republican reaction to Gov. Phil Murphy’s $44.83 billion budget proposal was along the lines of what you’d expect: criticisms of how the governor plans to spend the money. And a belief — countered by Murphy — that the state is indeed raising taxes.

Jack Ciattarelli, the presumptive Republican nominee for governor this fall, said the budget does not take the state in the right direction.

“The governor says he wants to ‘get our economy moving forward,’” Ciattarelli said. “One out of three new Jersey businesses have closed forever. Our schools aren’t open, preventing parents from getting back to work. You can’t get vaccinated, unless you’re an inmate or a smoker. Unemployment benefits are painfully delayed for months. And yet, Gov. Murphy casts himself as the state’s savior today.

“It’s an insult. An insult to working families fighting to keep their business afloat. An insult to the parents watching their children suffer through another lost school year. An insult to the millions of New Jerseyans struggling to pay their bills and hold onto their jobs. Gov. Murphy isn’t going to save New Jersey. What will save New Jersey is a new governor come January 2022.”

State Sen. Steve Oroho (R-Sparta), the Senate Republican Budget Officer, said the budget proposal is focused solely on boosting the governor’s reelection campaign:

“Let’s be perfectly clear: Gov. Murphy’s election-year budget is about protecting one job, his own,” Oroho said. “Senate Republicans have been warning since last June and July that the Murphy administration was peddling a false doom-and-gloom financial picture despite clear evidence that New Jersey’s finances had rebounded quickly as lockdowns eased.

“Instead of heeding our calls last spring and summer to fund urgently needed relief programs, the governor chose to sit on a growing pile of cash while one-third of New Jersey’s small businesses closed and nonprofits and families struggled.

“Today, Gov. Murphy is doing exactly what we said he would do when the current budget, with its low-ball revenue projections, was under consideration last fall. He revealed a massive multibillion-dollar surplus, as predicted, that he’ll start spending this summer as he kicks off his reelection campaign.

“It’s further proof that there was absolutely no need for the Murphy administration to borrow $4.3 billion last November, debt that we warned was unnecessary months earlier.”

Oroho said residents should not buy Murphy’s opinion that there are no tax hikes in the budget.

“Payroll taxes are going up this year, which will hit the paychecks of employees and employers who are already struggling,” he said. “His proposed budget would spend down billions in surplus, which won’t be sustainable beyond a single year.

“If Gov. Murphy is reelected, it’s an absolute certainty he’ll call for tax increases next year to keep his spending spree going.”

State Sen. Declan O’Scanlon (R-Holmdel), a member of the Senate Budget & Appropriations Committee, said the budget is spending New Jersey into a hole.

“We must remember where we started, fiscally, before the pandemic mayhem, because that’s exactly where we’re going to end up when it’s over,” he said. “Except, the hole will be deeper, the debt our children owe will be even more massive and the path to true solvency even more insurmountable.

“The governor’s budget is increasing spending by 11% since last year and by about 30% since he took office three years ago. It’s fueled by one-time windfalls of federal revenue, massive one-time borrowings and spending down surplus. Much of the spending is for government growth, including salary and benefit increases, new programs and expanded programs.

“And, while we are living on fleeting, one-shot revenues, and instituting spending that will go on forever, the budget is devoid of common sense and bipartisan efforts to control costs over the long term like ending pension and health benefit excesses, reestablishing binding arbitration reforms or providing more sustainable compensation increases for employees while so many are unemployed.”