Murphy says Legislature’s budget falls short by nearly $1B

BY Michael Aron, Chief Political Correspondent |

Surrounded by several hundred supporters in his outer office, Gov. Phil Murphy said today he and the Legislature agree on a lot. They agree mainly on what needs new money.

“But nothing in life is free, and we now have documented that the legislative leadership’s plan is nearly $1 billion short in being able to cover these needed investments,” Murphy said.

The Legislature passed its version of a budget Thursday night. According to Murphy, his original budget contained a surplus of $751 million. The Legislature’s budget would produce a deficit of $104 million, according to Murphy and his Treasurer Elizabeth Muoio. That’s a swing of $855 million, or nearly a billion dollars, that the governor calls phantom revenues made up by the Legislature.

“Let me be clear, falling nearly $1 billion short would put every investment we need to make in our schools, our hospitals, our communities, our small business, in mass transit, in social programs and in core programs that people of New Jersey depend upon, all of that would be put at risk,” Murphy said.

“The budget that was passed by the Legislature is a budget that people can rely on,” said Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin.

An hour earlier Coughlin held a news conference to defend the Legislature’s budget. He said his numbers come from the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services and can be trusted.

Former Budget Committee Chair, and current Majority Leader, Lou Greenwald backed him up on that.

“Treasurers of New Jersey are appointed by the governor, they report to the governor and they work for the governor. OLS does not work for the Democrats. They do not work for the Republicans. They work for the Legislature,” Greenwald said.

The main difference between the two sides is that Murphy would impose a millionaire’s tax and bump up the sales tax a fraction. The Legislature rejects those as taxes on people and instead wants a 2-year tax surcharge on large corporations.

Murphy has threatened to veto the Legislature’s bill, but sounded a more hopeful note Monday about meeting the June 30 deadline.

“We still have five plus days to go. There is plenty of time to get this done, and there is no logical reason it can’t be done,” Murphy said.

The governor sounded a little more flexible today, more amenable to a compromise.

“I have said from the get-go, at least over the past number of weeks, that there’s a framework of available alternatives that I think could add up in some combination to a deal. One of them is a re-characterized CBT [corporate business tax]. By the way, I’ve got two big issues with that. It’s the temporary nature is number one, but the level that makes us the highest in the country. Millionaires, sales, maybe accepting amnesty, which is something I have a hard time accepting unless you’re desperate, and I hope that we’re not desperate. I am open and reasonable,” Murphy said.

Coughlin wouldn’t talk about possible compromises he’s willing to make. His public stance is that his work is done.

“We have a budget that’s in place. We did our constitutional job,” Coughlin said.

Murphy insists the angels of fiscal responsibility are on his side.

“I didn’t come here to continue the games, and I’m not suggesting there’s ill will. I’m just suggesting that this notion of, can’t we just put a band aid on it and worry about this next year. That’s not why I’m here,” Murphy said.

Murphy said he’s meeting with about 10 or 12 Democratic legislators later Monday, including the leaders. Without an agreement on the budget, state government shuts down July 1.