In the Fiscal Year 2024 Budget Address he delivered today, Gov. Phil Murphy said that his proposed $53 billion budget would keep New Jersey on the path to financial stability and prosperity. But Republicans, who have long opposed the steady increase in spending under the Murphy administration, are once again arguing that the budget is too damn high.
“Gov. Murphy’s budget proposal for next year is 5% larger than this year’s budget, and it’s 50% bigger than the prior administration’s final budget,” Senate Minority Leader Steve Oroho (R-Franklin) said in a statement. “That’s a huge and unsustainable spending increase in just six years. We know that billions of that will likely be pork spending that should be redirected to tax relief.”
Of particular frustration is the budget’s $10 billion surplus; while Murphy framed the surplus as a major victory for a state that was in much rockier shape a few years ago, Republicans said that it’s an indication of just how overtaxed New Jerseyans are.
“A $10 billion surplus is a big chunk of money, and a great deal of it should be in the pockets of New Jerseyans,” Assembly Minority Leader John DiMaio (R-Hackettstown) said at a press conference following Murphy’s address. “[Murphy’s] number one mission in his administration is to protect government services, not to protect the taxpayers of New Jersey by returning their money to them.”
DiMaio said that state money could have been spent on his own plan to fully fund schools while lowering property taxes, rather than on what he and other Republican leaders characterized as “gimmicks” like the ANCHOR property tax relief program.
“It’s an election year budget for the Democrats, filled with a lot of gimmicks,” Assembly Budget Officer Hal Wirths (R-Wantage) said. “Are there good things in there? Of course there are. But this is our money. We were overtaxed tremendously, up to $53 billion, so we need real structural reform if we’re going to make a difference.”
Officially, Republican lawmakers who serve on the legislature’s budget committees will be part of the legislative process to hash out how the state’s money is spent. But if previous years are any indication, anyone without a D next to their name is likely to be shut out of most real budget discussions until the very end.
Asked whether he thought the budget could play an important role in this year’s legislative elections, when all 120 seats will come before voters, Wirths said that it showed how transformative a Republican majority would be.
“We’ll be pushing back, but hey, that’s why we’ve got to get the majority,” Wirths said. “That’s what stinks about being in the minority.”