2020 Budget Bill: Senate Republicans Liked it – Sort of

Insider NJ's Fred Snowflack gives an analysis of how Republicans in the NJ legislature responded to the NJ 2020 budget bill, which was passed by both houses and sent to Gov. Phil Murphy for review.

Paul Sarlo said there were “slight differences” between the budget the Senate passed Thursday afternoon and the one proposed by Gov. Murphy.

Sarlo, a Bergen County Democrat, must be an optimist.

In truth, there was – and is – a major difference between the two. The governor’s budget includes a tax increase on those earning more than a million dollars a year. The budget Sarlo was trumpeting does not.

There was a side benefit to a budget without a tax increase for the rich. Republicans liked it – sort of.

About half the GOP senators voted yes.

Sen. Steve Oroho, a conservative Republican from Sussex County, praised the budget and thanked Sarlo and other budget committee members for fostering a good working relationship. In the end, Oroho pushed the “no” button, but he said that was more or less a protest vote over school funding in his mostly rural 24th District.

Sarlo – still the optimist – praised the $38.7 billion budget for increasing funds for transportation, infrastructure and special education, saying, “I think there’s something in the budget for all of us.”

Maybe not.

Democratic Senator Dick Codey rose in defense of the millionaire’s tax, saying the people want it. Polls do confirm this. So did Senator Nia Gill, a fellow Democrat. Gill, whose district includes affluent Montclair, said she’s heard from no millionaires in opposition to the tax,

Some of this seemed a bit tough for Senate President Stephen Sweeney to take.

Sweeney chided those who think higher taxes on the rich is a “panacea,” adding that the state has other priorities – even other tax priorities.

“How about we do something to lower property taxes?” he asked.

That was an interesting comment. If done right, tackling property taxes would mean challenging home rule, reducing municipal services and looking for other ways to fund public education.

Democratic lawmakers can’t agree on hiking taxes on the rich, which really is pretty standard Democratic thinking. And now Sweeney is talking about reforming property taxes?

He’s got the right idea, but that’s not something that can “just happen.”

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