Republicans might head back to the New Jersey Supreme Court to challenge old-fashioned Christmas Tree spending in the state budget that requires New Jersey to borrow billions of dollars to stay afloat, Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick said today.
“Millions of dollars are being included for ‘pet projects’ despite an economic catastrophe that New Jersey has realized,” Bramnick said on Twitter. “The Governor will raise taxes and borrow billions and then spend 100 million dollars of ‘pork projects’.”
Bramnick has complained that some of his colleagues slipped special projects into the state budget even as the state fights the economic effect of a global pandemic. In the old days, these were called “Christmas Tree” items – spending that was included as courtesy to individual legislators.
Among the spending items being criticized: $1 million for the renovation of Hinchcliffe Stadium in Paterson; assistance for Metuchen trade tree management; $100,000 for the replacement of school floors in Wenonah; an East Brunswick municipal facility renovation; repairs to the Thomas Edison Memorial Tower in Edison; dredging of a Clark reservoir; and $1.5 million for the New Jersey Hall of Fame.
The budget also includes $4 million for the Essex County Golf Course, an expenditure included in Murphy’s original proposal that could reflect his renewed relationship with Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo.
The Legislature is expected to approve a $32.7 billion budget today, one week after Gov. Phil Murphy and Democratic legislative leaders agreed to the framework of a deal that included approval of a millionaires tax strongly advocated by the governor and middle class tax relief demanded by Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin.
To fund the budget without massive coronavirus-related tax increases, the state is seeking to borrow $4.5 billion, something the state’s top court has already cleared as emergency spending.
“The ‘pork projects’ that the Governor will give away to his political friends are in direct contradiction to the words of the Supreme Court,” Bramnick said. “The Court allowed borrowing without voter approval but not for things like golf courses. We may have to return to the Supreme Court.”