Murphy threatens to veto budget without a millionaire’s tax

BY Brenda Flanagan, Senior Correspondent |

Gov. Phil Murphy talked budget, marijuana and politics, in a Q&A following his news conference on county college funding. With budget negotiations looming at the State House, he’s determined to expand New Jersey’s millionaire’s tax and threatened to possibly veto a budget that doesn’t include it.

“The line in the sand is without question, enough of the old stumbling ways of putting Band-aids on our fiscal house. So there is a line in the sand for that,” said Murphy. “In the last, Christie administration, Democratic leadership put a millionaire’s tax up for a vote on five different occasions. The only thing that’s changed is the governor. So if it was a good idea then, it’s hard for me to see why it isn’t a good idea now.”

That continues to place Murphy squarely in opposition to Senate President Steve Sweeney, who remains committed to reforming public worker pensions and health care plans. Sweeney calculates his pension reform alone would save the state $17 billion over 30 years, and said during an editorial meeting, “We can pass the budget without raising taxes.”

But Murphy claims a host of programs depend on a bigger millionaire’s tax, which has public support in recent polls.

“We need to know more on the pension side, but if it’s going to shift the responsibility away from the state — which is the party that has not done its share on the pension side — we’re not going to support that. The state must regain its trust, and in addition to that, we don’t see where the savings are from,” Murphy said.

Murphy said he regretted that the recreational marijuana bill had failed to muster enough votes to pass, but supports the policy goals of medical marijuana legislation. However, the governor isn’t on board with a new bill that would decriminalize possessing up to 2 ounces of marijuana.

“I’m not a big decriminalization fan, I have to say. That goes back forever. It leaves the business in the hands of the bad guys. We don’t make any money out of it, which is the least of issues. Our kids remain exposed,” Murphy said.

Murphy downplayed the political sparks flying around the EDA task force investigation, which last week prompted South Jersey power broker George Norcross to file a lawsuit to block the inquiry. The governor repeated his stance.

“There’s no geography that we’re after, there’s no company we’re after, there’s no individual we’re after. I can’t speak for others. For me, what am I after? What’s my end game? The truth. The truth. I want to find out where every penny went,” Murphy said.

So hard core budget negotiations will begin in a political atmosphere that’s supercharged with mistrust. And that’s just among the Democrats.