New Jersey committees advance budget with $4.5B in borrowing

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A revised $34.7 billion state budget was approved by the New Jersey Assembly Budget Committee and the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee over the objection of business groups and Republicans who questioned a borrowing plan from the federal government and an expected surplus.

The revised budget was released late Monday evening and includes borrowing $500 million more from the federal government than the $4 billion proposed by Gov. Phil Murphy. The committees approved a millionaire’s tax that increases the tax rate for any income amount over $1 million from 8.97% to 10.75%. Corporations that make more than $1 million will pay an additional 2.5% surcharge until Dec. 31, 2023.

Lawmakers did scrap a proposal by Murphy to create a “baby bond” program that would have given $1,000 to each New Jersey baby whose family met certain income requirements. Also eliminated from the revised budget are additional cigarette taxes and a tax on opioid manufacturers.

But some budget items troubled Republicans including $4 million for an Essex County golf program and $1.5 million allocated to the New Jersey Hall of Fame.

“We are in the middle of an economic disaster,” said Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick. “Now is not the time to score political points with the budget.

The business community is tired of tax increases and mandates, said Christopher Emigholz, vice president of government affairs for the New Jersey Business and Industry Association in testimony to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

“Our businesses are still closed,” Emigholz said. “They’re not open to full capacity. They’re not allowed to by another governor mandate. We’re tired of the fact that we testified and spoke to a lot of you and I appreciate a lot of the comments we got but at the end of the day we were worried about the borrowing being $4 billion and now it’s more. We though the surplus was unnecessarily high at what it was, now it’s higher. So the business community has to ask, ‘when is enough enough?’”

Republicans questioned why the governor promised proceeds from the millionaire’s tax would be used next year to up to $500 in tax rebates to couples with at least one child. Sen. Steven Oroho called it the “Murphy reelection rebate” and said Republicans were left out of the budget negotiations.

“New Jersey deserved for its leaders to work together in a transparent, collaborative, and bipartisan process that welcomed public input into how we could help the state recover through this budget,” Oroho said. “Instead, we had a superficial hearing process that didn’t even have an outline of a budget to review, the public was excluded, and the details were negotiated in a private, partisan manner that could not have been more opaque.”

The full Senate and Assembly will vote on the budget Thursday.

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