GOP leaders aren’t happy with the New Jersey Supreme Court, but refused to blame Republican governors for appointing justices who sided with Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy on a plan to borrow up to $10 billion to plug coronavirus-related holes in the state budget.
“The Democratic Supreme Court today took a partisan swipe at common sense,” said Doug Steinhardt, the Republican State Chairman. “It was in some respects expected.”
Of the seven justices who took part in today’s unanimous decision, four were nominated by Gov Chris Christie and another by Gov. Christine Todd Whitman. Both are Republicans.
At a press briefing held after the court announced their ruling, Steinhardt said the real blame for New Jersey’s fiscal crisis belongs to the Democratic Party that controls the governor’s office and both houses of the legislature.
“You can’t look at this in the vacuum of one branch of government,” he said. “We wouldn’t be here if not for the other two.”
Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick said a two-party system would produce compromises, including budget cuts and caps on state spending.
“When you have one-party rule, this is what you get. I don’t think this is really about the Supreme Court. This is about one-party rule in the state and how it affects taxpayers in the state for the last 20 years,” Bramnick said. “That’s what voters have to worry about.”
Bramnick would have preferred budget cuts before making a quick decision to borrow billions of dollar.
Steinhardt said that the borrowing plan makes “state government a credit card for Governor Murphy to max out.”
“Election matters as a result of the fact that we had to litigate a bill that came from a liberal governor in Phil Murphy who really created the financial crisis by his own actions and inactions,” he said. “And it came from an all-Democratic legislature, fast-tracked in a scenario where they could muster the votes to redistricting out to voter approval but couldn’t see their way clear to let voters decide whether they wanted to support $10 billion in borrowed debt.
Bramnick slammed unfavorable outcomes in legislative redistricting in 2001 and 2011 as the reason why New Jersey has become an all-blue state.
“Give me a new map. Give me a map that (has) competitive districts and I’ll show you how the voters of New Jersey would change the essence of the legislature,” the minority leader said. “If you gerrymander these districts where we don’t have a shot at winning, that’s why you have one-party rule. Fair map, you get a fair result.”
According to Bramnick, the result will be a tax bill for New Jerseyans of an extra $6,500 annually.
“This legislation permits a new statewide property tax and a new tax on your stuff,” Bramnick said, noting that the state is now free to tax just about anything.
He said that New Jersey now has a “real emergency and it’s a taxpayer emergency.”
“This legislation, which is now going to be the law, is going to place an additional burden on every taxpayer in the state – a state that is already the highest taxed state in the country,” he said. “I am deeply concerned that there’s no plan to pay back $30 billion.”
Bramnick says that the state has no plan to pay back what it borrows.
“No reasonable person borrows money, and in my judgment, now reasonable governor borrows money, unless you have a plan to pay it back.”
State Sen. Michael Testa, Jr. (R-Vineland), who argued the Republican case before the New Jersey Supreme Court, also put the blame on Democrats.
“One day I hope we’re all very mindful of the term ‘taxpayer justice’ because that is not something that seems to be on the front lines for any of the legislators on the other side of the aisle nor the governor,” Testa said.
Assembly Republican Budget Officer Hal Wirths (R-Wantage) noted that New Jersey has only spent a fraction of federal coronavirus relief funds.
“The pandemic was definitely an act of got, but a lot of the downside of the economy was definitely an act of Phil Murphy,” said Wirths. “The governor is responsible for this.”
Steinhardt acknowledged that the COVID-19 has put the state into dire financial straits, but maintains that Murphy and a “Democratic echo chamber” is making things worse.
“We’re five months in and we still don’t have any semblance of a tangible economic reopening plan,” Steinhardt said. “People are growing increasingly frustrated that entire cross sections of the state’s economy remain closed.”
He said challenging overreach is an effective way of reigning government in.
Democrats pushed back on complaints from the GOP.
“This Republican lawsuit was never about helping New Jersey residents deal with the pandemic,” said Philip Swibinski, a spokesman for the Democratic State Committee. “Just like every other action Trenton Republicans have taken in the last several months, it was always about partisan politics, pure and simple.”