Gov. Phil Murphy said the $4.9 billion pension payment he proposed is non-negotiable. Budget committee chairs in the Senate and Assembly disagree, though they didn’t rule out following the governor’s lead on the pension.
“I think that we kind of go through this and when the governor proposes his budget, it’s a proposal and it’s a starting point,” Assembly Budget Chairwoman Eliana Pintor Marin (D-Newark) said. “I think that everything that he’s mentioned in his budget is always on the table, as it is every year.”
In the revised budget address he delivered Thursday, Murphy called for a $4.9 billion payment into the pension fund amid a pandemic that has sent revenues into a tumble they likely won’t recover from in the next fiscal year.
Buoyed by borrowing and a slew of proposed tax increases, the governor’s budget makes up for the $5.6 billion revenue hole, though Republicans in the statehouse have criticized Murphy’s plan, saying borrowing would stack more debt onto an already debt-ridden state.
The Democratic infighting typical of budget season has yet to show itself in full, but Democratic leaders in the legislature aren’t yet willing to commit to many of the governor’s proposals.
“I don’t think anything is written in stone, nothing should be written in stone, but the thing about this year, unlike last year, is we don’t have a lot of time to deliberate,” Senate Budget Chairman Paul Sarlo (D-Woodridge) said, adding that pension cuts were “not where we would want to start.”
Still, there’s at least some good will between Murphy and lawmakers in the statehouse.
“I’m not saying that the governor is wrong,” Pintor Marin said. “We’ve seen throughout years, whether it’s a Republican or Democratic governor, we have a major pension issue, and I can understand that he feels very strongly about that. I think that, as we’re working to craft our budget, we’re going to take that into consideration.”