Home>Feature>GOP heads to Supreme Court to block Murphy borrowing plan

GOP heads to Supreme Court to block Murphy borrowing plan

State Sen. Michael Testa, Jr. will argue case for Republicans

By David Wildstein, August 05 2020 9:20 am

The New Jersey Supreme Court will hear a Republican challenge to the constitutionality Gov. Phil Murphy’ plan to borrow up to $10 billion this morning.

Murphy, with the consent of the Democratic-controlled legislature, consented to the borrowing plan as a way of plugging gaping holes in the state budget caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Republicans, limited by minority status in both legislative houses, are taking the issue directly to the state’s top court – a venue they view as their best chance to stop Murphy.

Prior court rulings have held that the state cannot borrow money simply as a way of generating revenue.

Murphy isn’t the only stakeholder involved in today’s hearing.

Republican State Chairman Doug Steinhardt, widely viewed as a potential candidate for governor against Murphy next year, is leading the court fight against the Murphy plan.

“Governor Murphy continues to put New Jersey’s financial future at risk with his illegal borrowing and State levied property tax scheme,” Steinhardt said.  “Leadership is about doing what’s right, not just what’s easy, and since the Governor isn’t brave enough to make the hard decisions today to protect New Jersey’s economic future tomorrow, we’ll see him in court.”

Two other candidates are also involved.

Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, also actively weighing a campaign for governor, is also involved in the suit.

A third gubernatorial candidate, former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, was rebuffed by the court from being added as a plaintiff, but his lawyer will be able to address the court today.

The case for the Republicans is being argued by State Sen. Michael Testa, Jr. (R-Vineland), rising GOP star who took on the litigation role at the best of Steinhardt, a close political ally.

Sixteen years ago, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the state could not borrow money to balance the budget.

The court allowed Gov. James E. McGreevey to proceed in his borrowing plan, but put a stop to the practice going forward.

The 2004 decision was decided 5-0.

Just two of the justices on the bench now were around then: Jaynee LaVecchia and Barry Albin.  LaVecchia dissented from part of the decision, saying that lawmakers were not constitutionally bound to consider some bond proceeds as revenue.  Albin did not participate on the case.

Chief Justice Stuart Rabner was nominated by Gov. Jon Corzine, and Associate Justices Anne Patterson, Lee Solomon, Faustino Fernandez-Vina and Walter Timpone were nominated by Gov. Chris Christie.  Albin was a McGreevey nominee and LaVecchia was sent to the top court by Gov. Christine Todd Whitman.

Arguments can be viewed online: https://njcourts.gov/public/webcast.html.

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