POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Still no budget deal, Murphy says ‘everything is on the table’

BY Michael Aron, Chief Political Correspondent |

“We had a good discussion on where things are, which is obviously quite fluid,” Gov. Phil Murphy said.

Murphy held a Cabinet meeting Thursday morning and invited the media in for a quick status report on the budget impasse.

“We put a compromise out a couple of nights ago, which I still feel strongly is both reasonable, but we’re resolved at the same time. And we accept, I know I do, we accept, Sheila and I and the team this is politics and you have to find common ground, and count us in for that,” Murphy said.

Murphy is struggling with legislative leaders Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin over how to raise revenue.

Sweeney Wednesday dismissed Murphy’s compromise offer and came up with his own ideas, which included expanding the sales tax to cover rental property, hiking the realty transfer fee from 1 percent to 2 percent on million dollar homes, and allowing a corporate business tax surcharge for four years.

Murphy said Thursday that taxing home rentals hurts the shore.

“Let’s lay off the middle class. Let’s invest in the middle class. I saw what was discussed yesterday and I never thought of it before, about the shore rentals. That’s taking it out of the middle class. That’s the opposite of why we were brought here, why we’ve either gotten elected or brought here, and convened here to work together,” Murphy said.

Sweeney was at a casino opening Thursday morning, where NJTV News Senior Correspondent Brenda Flanagan asked him about the budget.

“When I met with the governor, when we met with leadership the other day, I asked him would he be open to new revenues. He said he would. What we put up yesterday isn’t anything I like, but they’re sustainable revenues and hopefully we’ll come to a compromise somewhere,” Sweeney said.

A deal needs to be reached or state government shuts down Sunday. Murphy said he remains optimistic.

“These are the makings of a very good compromise and resolution that’s reasonable to this. But I would be abrogating my responsibilities if we did not plan for the whole range of possible outcomes if logic doesn’t prevail, including the shutdown of the state,” Murphy said.

Later, Murphy stood in a Trenton elementary school to make the point that his budget bolsters school aid. His preferred solution to the revenue problem is an income tax hike on millionaires, and he’s sticking with that.

“But some in the Trenton ecosystem continue to play games and toss Hail Mary passes from the State House to see if maybe just one can land in the end zone,” Murphy said. “So far they’ve all been short. I’m not, for example, open to giving millionaires on the one hand another free pass so we can tax a family’s long-awaited vacation at the Jersey Shore.”

Patrick Murray, the director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, says the fight is all about the millionaire’s tax.

“The millionaire’s tax is clearly part and parcel of Gov. Murphy’s political identity, and I think the legislative leadership has said, well, you haven’t been bargained with us in good faith up to this point. We’re not going to a give an inch on this because this is going to undermine our own power within the caucus and across the state,” Murray said.

Murphy has threatened to veto the budget bill lawmakers sent him last week. All options are on the table, he keeps saying.

“If we had a game plan, I promise you I’d tell you what it was. We’re war-gaming a whole series of different scenarios but I’m still optimistic. We’re still trying to get a deal done. I think the words that I used earlier apply. We are resolved. We know why we got elected. We know why we’re here, but we’re also reasonable and I think that compromise you saw us put out a couple of nights ago, I think that’s a very fair framework, and inside of that mix somewhere I think there’s a deal to be had,” Murphy said.

The Senate and Assembly are both scheduled in Friday, Saturday and Monday. A government shutdown Sunday gets more likely with every tick of the clock.