There was no mystery as to what was going to happen.
Everybody knew the state’s nine-month, pandemic-influenced budget was going to be approved Thursday by the Democratic-controlled Assembly.
But Republicans made their point.
Jon Bramnick, the Assembly Minority Leader, had some questions for the governor.
He wanted to know what to tell an 80-year-old constituent who can’t pay her taxes.
Bramnick also wanted to know what to tell an unemployed couple in Basking Ridge struggling to survive.
The governor, of course, wasn’t there, so Bramnick’s queries were symbolic.
Still, Bramnick and other GOP critics made some valid points.
For instance, why are there “Christmas Tree” items in the budget? These are goodies for specific, or shall we say, pet projects. Examples are allotments for the New Jersey Hall of Fame and advisory commissions in Democratic-controlled towns. The term, “Christmas Tree,” has been around for a long time. simply because these grants are considered gifts as opposed to necessary spending.
Another contentious issue was a budget surplus of about $2.5 billion.
This debate was interesting, even a bit befuddling.
Generally, maintaining a healthy surplus is a sign of fiscal discipline, which is something Republicans normally would support.
But not this time around. Republicans argued that more of the surplus should be applied to the budget.
It was the Democrats who defended having a sizable surplus, thereby presenting the fiscal conservative argument.
In the end, the estimated $40 billion budget passed in a mostly, party-line vote. It takes effect Oct. 1.
The budget raises income taxes on those earning more than $1 million a year from a rate of 8.97 percent to 10.75 percent. It also increases the corporate business tax to 11.5 percent.
Republicans stridently condemned both tax increases.
As Bramnick observed, “I would suggest that each time the majority makes a move like this, they send a terrible message.”
Republican Hal Wirths noted that the temporary, three-month budget covering July through September raised no taxes. But he said this budget more than makes up for that.
Democratic Assemblyman Lou Greenwald brushed aside the Republican opposition, saying that it’s the voters who really count. And as he noted, the voters have given Democrats a healthy majority in the Legislature.