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Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin. (Photo by Nikita Biryukov)

Democrats hopeful after Murphy budget

Millionaire’s tax, NJ Transit funding poised as hurdles

By Nikita Biryukov, March 05 2019 6:26 pm

Democratic leaders in the state legislature are hopefully eyeing the budget handed to them by Gov. Phil Murphy.

“When we were briefed yesterday, we saw a different tone,” Assembly Budget Committee Chairwoman Eliana Pintor Marin said at a press conference following Murphy’s budget address. “We saw a tone of an extension of wanting to work together, of compromise, and I think what he presented to us is really him listening to what the legislature had to say from last year to this point.”

But while Murphy has succeeded in making a good first impression on his counterparts in the legislature, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, Senate President Steve Sweeney and others in Democratic leadership aren’t completely satisfied.

For one, both Coughlin and Sweeney said after the budget address that they opposed the millionaire’s tax Murphy proposed. They’ve both previously said they would oppose new taxes in the upcoming year’s budget.

Legislative leaders also worried that the $25 million net revenue increase Murphy has proposed for the state’s transit agency won’t be enough.

“We think New Jersey Transit needs to be funded better than what they have in this budget. I don’t have much transit where I live, but I agree with the senator that we need to do better,” Sweeney said, referring to Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg

Still, legislators did have some praise to offer for Murphy. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Paul Sarlo praised the governor for securing $440 million in savings on health benefits to local and county governments that legislators hope might ease property tax burdens in the state.

Others are just glad that, unlike last budget season, Murphy seems willing to compromise.

“He deserves credit for having understood — having gone through the process now for a year — understanding the legislature and legislature’s reasoning, and I think that’s reflected in this budget,” Coughlin said. “Many of the things that legislators wanted to include last year that were not in the budget, he’s included them.”

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