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Gov. Phil Murphy. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe)

Murphy hopeful on cigarette tax hike despite legislative opposition

‘It’s early,’ governor says

By Nikita Biryukov, February 26 2020 12:33 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy isn’t taking Senate President Steve Sweeney’s opposition to an increased cigarette tax as a sign of a coming impasse in budget negotiations.

“Listen, it’s early. As I said, we had a really great leadership meeting last week. We had a great budget preview meeting on Monday. Steve and Craig and I had breakfast yesterday,” Murphy said. “I feel going into this process it’s going to turn out, as it always does, a little bit different than what we proposed. That happens every year.”

In his budget address on Tuesday, the governor proposed raising the excise tax on cigarettes by $1.65, a proposal the Treasury estimates will bring in about $215 million in fiscal year 2021.

In an unplanned gaggle following Murphy’s address, Sweeney said he opposed revenue raisers aside from the millionaires’ tax, which he said he would support in exchange for an additional $1 billion in pension payments.

Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin has likewise expressed skepticism on the tax hikes proposed by Murphy, though he’s regarded Sweeney’s proposed deal with the same wary eye.

Despite the early legislative opposition, which so far lacks the animus seen in past budget negotiations, Murphy is hoping Democratic leaders can align on the issue.

“We’ve gotten 99%, approximately, of our asks on the investment side each of the past couple of years,” Murphy said. “I’d like to get the revenues into a better place, and I feel strongly that sustainable recurring revenues are what we need, particularly if we’re going to run into some economic choppy waters.”

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