POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Murphy urges lawmakers to put opioid manufacturers’ tax back in budget

BY Michael Aron, Chief Political Correspondent |

Gov. Phil Murphy’s budget plan this year put $100 million toward the fight against opioid addiction. That’s the same amount as last year, but this year he proposed a tax on the prescription drug industry to help pay for it.

“Our budget asked the big opioid manufacturers and distributors, whose products and marketing have contributed to the epidemic, to kick in $21.5 million toward that $100 million that New Jersey will be spending on out anti-addiction efforts. I don’t think that asking companies with billions of dollars in collective profits to split a modest 20% share of our overall spend is at all out of line for all the pain the opioid epidemic has caused,” Murphy said.

Last week the Legislature stripped out that tax when it passed its version of the budget. Murphy appealed to legislators Tuesday to put it back in.

“The Legislature has protected the opioid industry’s interests and profits and put the entire $100 million burden of our entire opioid program squarely on the shoulders of New Jersey taxpayers. And with so many things elsewhere in the Legislature’s budget, this omission leads one to ask a very simple question once again, ‘Whose side are you on?'” Murphy asked.

Republican Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz said in a statement, “There is nothing fair about a tax that will be passed down to patients who need this medicine. We shouldn’t be taxing a legal medication with false promises.”

With a constitutional deadline looming, Murphy is still lobbying for a millionaire’s tax that the Legislature has rejected.

“Just as with our other initiatives built on simple fairness, we will not drop this argument on June 30,” Murphy said.

Whether that means shutting down the government over it or simply advocating for it going forward, Murphy won’t really say what’s in his mind.

“I don’t want to make light of the cuts that we would like to see put back in, but the bigger picture is on the revenue side. And again, at the risk of repeating what I’ve said already, all options remain on the table,” Murphy said.

Murphy said he was elected to build the middle class and reform the state budget process.

“That journey will continue and we will not relent. And that includes finding tax fairness and tax equity, leveling the playing field, and breaking this crazy cycle of stumbling into every June 30, waking up on July 1 with this wash, rinse, dry, repeat,” he said.

Reporters seemed frustrated with the same stale answers they’ve been getting for a week.

“As I say, all options are on the table and we’re trying to square all this up in the next few days. When we’ve got something to report we’ll get back to you,” Murphy said.

Murphy has five more days to figure out what to do with the budget bill on his desk. He must have a game plan, but it’s hard to determine what it is, and he’s playing his cards very close to the vest.