After weeks of committee hearings and one brief Senate session, the 220th New Jersey State Legislature held its first full legislative voting session today, headlined by a seemingly straightforward bill that nevertheless drew significant opposition from Republican lawmakers: whether to allow Gov. Phil Murphy to delay his 2022 budget address by two weeks.
The bill, sponsored by Assembly Budget Chair Eliana Pintor Marin (D-Newark), moves Murphy’s annual address from February 22 to March 8 so that it can be delivered in-person instead of remotely. But a number of Republicans protested against such a move, saying that it gave the governor yet more power and reduced transparency.
“Please, Mr. Speaker and the majority party, hold the governor accountable for once,” Assemblyman Brian Bergen (R-Denville) said. “There is a timeline. He’s supposed to deliver a budget address. He’s supposed to give us the budget information so that we can make the best possible budget. Would you please, for once, hold him accountable?”
Pintor Marin pushed back on the Republican argument, saying that extensions on budget addresses have been requested before by governors of both parties.
“We’re here today to give the governor a two-week extension which many governors before him have asked for,” Pintor Marin said. “Especially when, this year, our inauguration was a little later; especially when we’re continuing to have strong revenues that will give us an opportunity to have better numbers when we do start our budget process.”
The Assembly ultimately passed the bill on a nearly party-line 43-32-1 vote, with Assemblyman Ronald Dancer (R-Plumsted) abstaining.
A short while later, the Senate took up the same bill and, after a brief speech in opposition by State Sen. Declan O’Scanlon (R-Little Silver), passed it on a 23-11 vote; State Sens. Jean Stanfield (R-Westampton) and Vincent Polistina (R-Egg Harbor Township) joined Democrats in support.
For the 16 newly elected members of the Assembly, today marked their first day in the Assembly chambers, but many of them were not present to commemorate the occasion. With only one bill on the docket, fewer than 30 members of the Assembly – including just eight Republicans – showed up to vote in-person, while the rest voted remotely.
The Senate, which had a number of bills up for votes, fared better, with 34 of 40 senators in attendance.