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

Too early to tell how budget will change, Murphy says

Governor may give second budget address ahead of September deadline

By Nikita Biryukov, April 01 2020 3:41 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy said it’s not yet clear how much the nine-month budget lawmakers intend to pass in September will differ from the budget he introduced in February.

“Too early to tell, but I’ll make an obvious point: the world has changed dramatically since the budget address I gave, and so we’re going to have to account for it,” Murphy said. “How exactly we account for it, too early to tell.”

The deal between Murphy and legislative leaders, first reported by the New Jersey Globe, would see the current budget extended for three months by a supplemental appropriation.

It’s also too early to tell what that appropriation will look like.

Murphy Chief Counsel Matt Platkin on Wednesday said the constitutional requirements for an annual state budget wouldn’t block the stop-gap appropriations bill but lawmakers would have to pass a bill changing the statutory definition of a fiscal year for it to hold legal muster.

It’s not yet clear how exactly the budget will change, but Treasurer Liz Muoio has said the budget Murphy announced in February would likely need significant revisions.

The COVID-19 crisis has already sent the state into a fiscal tumble, with weekly unemployment claims reaching record levels.

Last month, Muoio froze more than $900 million in appropriations in preparation for the downturn.

The governor declined to rule out giving a second budget address ahead of the Sept. 30 budget deadline, though he stressed again that the immediate future of New Jersey’s economy would depend heavily on federal aid.

“Haven’t even thought about the address question,” he said. “It’s a good one, so that’s one I think we’ll be back to you on. I think we need to know a lot more than we know now, particularly the impact of the federal money.”

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