WOODBRIDGE – “Let’s sign this sucker, let’s go.”
So said Phil Murphy this morning as he capped a celebration surrounding the adoption of the state’s new, $46.4 billion budget.
There have been years when adopting a budget by the start of the July 1 fiscal year prompted long nights, angry tirades and even a brief shutdown of state government.
Just in Murphy’s tenure, in fact, there were budget fights over the millionaire’s tax and legalizing recreational pot.
All of that was in the past.
The voters made pot legal and higher taxes on millionaires took effect last year.
So as the governor and legislative leaders gathered for a ceremony today at a local school, everyone was buddy-buddy.
Things were quite different just a year ago.
With the pandemic roaring, the budget for the 2020-21 year was delayed a few months until the fall.
And it was assumed that with tax revenues down, state finances would be in peril.
But none of that really happened, thanks to revenues being better than expected, federal aid and the ability of the state to borrow money.
That helped give Murphy a splendid election year gift – a 2021-22 budget that increases benefits for many and that doesn’t raise taxes.
No wonder everyone was smiling.
Republicans, of course, are unhappy. But partisanship aside, they’re going to have a hard time condemning a budget that doesn’t raise taxes and that gives people many more things.
There is more help for needy students to attend college, tax rebates and increased earned income and child tax credits.
Moreover, the state is making a pension contribution of nearly $7 billion, which is actually more than what actuaries recommended. That is truly a break from how recent governors from both parties have handfed the pension system.
State Sen. Paul Sarlo, the head of the Senate Budget Committee, said that there have been times over the years when he left Trenton after a budget battle feeling unsatisfied.
That’s because to get the budget adopted, he had to accept things he didn’t want, or oppose items he did.
But not this year.
Sarlo said he felt “at ease” upon departing the statehouse. He said the legislature and the governor “did well” for the first time in years.
For his part, Murphy said there are those who may think government can not be progressive and responsible at the same time.
“We are proving them wrong,” the governor said.
Progressive and Responsible.
It makes for a rather cluttered bumper sticker, but just the same, it could be a Murphy campaign theme.