Our political team called in people who know how the budgetary sausage gets made. Former State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristof, Republican strategist Mike DuHaime and Democratic Strategist Maggie Moran, and from the State House Senior Correspondent David Cruz joined Correspondents Michael Hill and Briana Vannozzi.
Vannozzi: David, Gov. Murphy campaigned on the promise of a stronger and fairer New Jersey and it looks like that’s going to cause something to the tune of $37.4 billion, yes?
Cruz: Yes, it’s a little bit more, about $2 or $3 billion more than the previous budget and really it just shows a total new direction for the state, philosophically and economically. So, it’s a new day here, and it’s a really big question of not so much did Republicans have objections to that speech, but how many Democrats had objections to some of the elements in that speech.
Vannozzi: Well, that’s going to be particularly tough because he’s relying heavily on this millionaire’s tax that’s not going to be without hurdles to get through this Legislature.
Cruz: The millionaire’s tax is just one of the things. As you know and as you been talking about today, the Senate president has proposed an alternate millionaire’s tax. This one on million dollar corporations. So, the Senate president likes that idea. There was some speculation that the governor might include some elements of that idea in his speech today, but that didn’t happen. So, that sets up a potential battle between whose millionaire’s tax prevails, and that’s going to be interesting to watch going forward. Also, the question of legalizing marijuana and the hundreds of millions of dollars that are expected in terms of revenue for the state from that. That got sort of a lukewarm reception, but suggested again as the Republicans reiterated in their response that that’s not a given either. So, a lot of roadblocks and a lot of hurdles between here and the end of June. Somebody who I talked to earlier today, a member of the Legislature, said, “I hope you’re not doing anything on the July Fourth weekend,” and those of us who sat through the last July Fourth weekend, pretty much here in the State House waiting as both sides tried to work out a deal because there was a government shutdown. So, already the specter of that nightmare scenario is being discussed.
Hill: Alright, David Cruz for us in Trenton. Let’s go to the studio now. Mike DuHaime, the voters of knew what Phil Murphy campaigned on and it looks like he’s delivering on that with his massive budget.
DuHaime: Well, I think the question will be whether or not the Democrats in the Legislature now go along with it. The very Democrats who last year voted to cut the sales tax, are they the same Democrats that are going to go back on their word and vote to raise the sales tax? Are they going to be OK with multibillion dollar tax increase — income tax increase, sales tax increase, taxes on Uber, Lyft, Airbnb — there’s lots of tax increases in there. I’m not surprised by Gov. Murphy’s attempts to do this. Obviously, this is what he campaigned on. He made no bones about that he was going to have this type of budget. The question now would be whether or not Democrats will now go along with that, as well as legalization of marijuana. I think Democrats in New Jersey are not like Democrats in San Francisco or Seattle. I think these are very different Democrats in New Jersey, so what we’ll be watching is whether or not the Legislature goes along with all these proposals.
Vannozzi: Andrew, the devil as they say is in the details and this also painted some broad strokes like we’ve seen before. We still don’t have that breakdown as to how he’ll ramp up these plans and how we’ll get to these achievements.
Sidamon-Eristoff: Well, yes. This is just the first lap of a fairly long process that won’t conclude until the end of June with any luck. As David noted, there’s a lot of detail to be looked at over the next days and weeks. I, in particular, will be looking at things like revenue estimates, the use of language appropriations, technical features of the budget that will become perhaps part of the discussion over time. Right now, the big buzz is going to be over tax increases. Yes, there’s a lot of tax increases in this budget, but there are many, more details that we need to look at.
Vannozzi: Maggie, did he hit home on his priorities here? Was this a knock out of the park for Phil Murphy for his first budget?
Moran: Yes, I think the governor delivered on what he promised to people when he had a 14-point victory. He wanted an economy that was stronger and fairer. So, when you think about it, of course my colleagues are going to categorize it as tax increases, but it’s a reforming of the tax system. It’s changing the way that you think about taking in revenue. It’s increasing a bid on millionaires. It’s creating a significant increase in a child care tax deduction, an earned income tax deduction, a property tax deduction that affects working middle-class people. So, it re-prioritizes the tax codes similar to what New York and California have done, which have resulted in a robust economy and a very dramatic increase in jobs which New Jersey has been lagging on. So, it’s a new day for New Jersey.
Hill: Maggie, come June 30 when the budget needs to be approved and needs to be ratified and so forth, you’re not expecting a repeat of what we had last year though?
Moran: I think in particular, the press corps loves to talk about the fact that Senate President Sweeney has one version for how to increase some revenues and the governor has a different one. You know, Senate President Sweeney and Speaker Coughlin are experienced public servants. They know how to get in a room and negotiate a budget. This governor, they had the same priorities. Invest in NJ Transit, 172 percent increase in funding for NJ Transit, helping commuters. School funding formula, let’s finally fund it over after defunding it by $9 billion over eight years. Let’s get some property tax reduction in there after what Washington did to us. There’s a lot of comfort in what those investments, where that spending priority is in the budget to help working class families, and to really think about what is a pro-growth, progressive agenda for New Jersey moving forward.
Hill: All right, we’ll have to leave it there. Thank you very much Andrew, Maggie and Mike.