New Jersey’s Fiscal Year 2023 Budget was approved today on a largely party-line vote in both houses of the state legislature, with Democrats lauding the tax breaks and affordability measures the budget entails and Republicans countering that the relief provided isn’t nearly enough.
“This is a budget that puts the focus on our priorities of making New Jersey more affordable, addressing the financial needs of working people and expanding the state’s economy,” Senate President Nick Scutari (D-Linden) said in a statement after his chamber passed the budget.
Gov. Phil Murphy first outlined his vision for the state budget in his March budget address that focused heavily on affordability, particularly through the ANCHOR property tax rebate program. In the months afterwards, Murphy’s office and the Senate and Assembly budget committees met to hash out how to allocate $50.6 billion in state money and $24.1 billion in federal money, with the legislative committees holding dozens of meetings.
However, the full text of the final budget wasn’t available until it was introduced in committee on Monday night – less than 48 hours ago. Many Republican legislators only had 20 minutes to read the 300-page document before voting on it in committee, and members of the public who wanted to testify didn’t even have that.
Because of both the opaque process that led to the budget and the spending contained within it, Republicans were largely united in voting no today.
The bill passed by a vote of 25-15 in the Senate, and by a 48-30 vote in the Assembly. In both chambers, the swingy 2nd district’s legislators – State Sen. Vince Polistina (R-Egg Harbor), Assemblyman Don Guardian (R-Atlantic City), and Assemblywoman Claire Swift (R-Margate) were the only Republicans to vote yes.
That means a number of vulnerable Republican legislators are now on the record voting against whatever perks the budget may contain – sure to be a campaign season attack line for the Democrats hoping to take them down.
“There’s so much more this body could have done to give [money] back, but we didn’t,” State Sen. Michael Testa (R-Vineland) said as the Senate debated the bill. “Mr. President, I will vote no on this bloated budget, and in doing so, I will be voting no against a biased and unfair process.”
“There’s more pork here than the state of Iowa,” Assembly Republican Budget Officer Hal Wirths (R-Wantage) added in a press conference before today’s vote. “Everybody got something, but the taxpayers didn’t get anything. The taxpayers got screwed on this budget.”
But Democrats countered that the budget is a fiscally responsible document, and one that puts the state in a good position for future years.
“This is a budget that is a building block upon which future budgets can be based,” Assembly Budget Chair Eliana Pintor Marin (D-Newark) said. “It’s a budget that supports all New Jersey residents and continues our exceptional record of fiscal responsibility… The budget document represents the single greatest opportunity for the legislature to help improve the lives of the people of New Jersey, and that’s what we’re all here to do.”
The budget now heads to Murphy for his signature, which he will provide in Cranford tomorrow. Unlike in previous years, Murphy and legislative leaders did not have any real public disagreements, and there was no real threat of a government shutdown.
And with Murphy’s signature, the spring session of the legislature will come to an end – not to return (for the most part) until after the summer recess.
George Christopher contributed reporting.