Over the protestations of Republicans, the Democratic Party-controlled Assembly this afternoon signed off on the $50.6 billion state budget for the 2023 fiscal year.
The GOP complained about the process.
“Transparency brings accountability. Accountability brings trust in our government,” said Assemblywoman Aura Dunn (R-25).
Late ramrodded spending deprived lawmakers of accountability, she added.
Assemblyman Gerry Scharfenberger (R-13) recommended that Governor Phil Murphy take a financial literacy course. “This budget contains a 46% increase in spending since this governor took office,” Scharfenberger griped. “This rate of spending cannot be sustained.”
It was mostly like a badminton match between the two parties on the floor of the assembly: not high powered, semi-dispassionate.
People said what one might expect them to say.
“This is a great budget,” gushed Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (D-4).
Of course, there were exceptions.
Scandalized by the absence of adequate school funds for her district, Assemblywoman Beth Sawyer (R-3) absolutely panned the budget, in very strong terms.
Other Republicans objected to the billions in special project sending, the consequences of massive federal aid in this particular budget, that may not, and in fact probably, won’t exist in the coming years.
“You’re acting like you have all this money sitting around right now that we need to spend. Tax refunds and different gimmicks. The majority party crossed over today from being dysfunctional to delusional. As of today there is $12 billion in the state coffers. All the rest of this, you have to take from the people in taxes and fees,” said Assemblyman Brian Bergen (R-25).
“The problem here is the attitude of the majority party,” the assemblyman added.
Bergen sparred a little with Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-19). Coughlin objected to the somewhat un-lawyerly invocation of “attitude” as germane to the task at hand.
But it amounted to no great moment in the history of debate, as Democrats soon piled on with positive comments about the budget. You know the names. They signed off, one after another, with the GOP sprinkled in with the occasional vociferous objection.
In the end, these were the only numbers that counted: 46 to 34.
The GOP finally just didn’t have the bodies to make their arguments stick as the governing body, on the heels of the state senate, passed the massive spending bill.
For the record, Assemblyman John McKeon (D-27) protested the GOP’s argument regarding transparency. “We had 112 hours of public testimony over a great number of months,” said the Essex Democrat. “Two billion dollars in property tax relief! There are no new taxes in this budget.”
The slate mates of fellow GOP state Senator Vince Polistina (R-2) followed the leader, issuing the following statement in breaking ranks with their Republican colleagues:
Polistina, Guardian & Swift statement on FY2023 Budget
Legislative District Two team vote in favor
Senator Vince Polistina and Assembly members Don Guardian and Claire Swift (all R – LD2) offered these statements following today’s budget vote.
“Atlantic County sent us to Trenton to do one thing: make New Jersey more affordable. And this budget does just that,” said Senator Polistina. “Although we need more permanent fixes to our state’s sorry fiscal health, there’s enough property tax relief in the budget through the ANCHOR program, record-setting additional funding for Stockton University, and a back-to-school sales tax holiday that I am supporting this vision for the next year.”
“Every day I hear from Atlantic County’s hardworking families about how inflation and gas prices are making life in New Jersey unaffordable,” Assemblywoman Swift said. “No budget can be perfect, but relief is needed now and this budget has it. Vince, Don and I promised we would work with anyone — Republican or Democrat — to keep costs down and make Atlantic County’s priorities heard in Trenton. I am pleased to report we are delivering.”
“This budget has over fifty million dollars for critical capital investment and infrastructure projects in Atlantic County. Finally, South Jersey is getting a fair shake,” Assemblyman Guardian said. “I also knew I’d be a ‘yes’ when I saw that the pension obligation to our police and fire services was being fully funded for the second year in over twenty years. We owe it to them to make sure they can retire with dignity.”