Senator Sam Thompson warned that transparency has reached a new low in Trenton as Governor Phil Murphy and the Senate President and Assembly Speaker, all Democrats, have eschewed any semblance of a public process to determine how tens of billions of dollars of State and federal funds will be spent.
“Three men are deciding how more than $50 billion of State and federal funds will be spent with absolutely no public input,” said Thompson (R-12), a member of the Senate Budget & Appropriations Committee. “In prior years, Democrats would at least pretend to want to hear from the public before rubberstamping the budget they had already agreed upon in private. This year, they’re dispensing with the charade and have completely cut the public out of the process. It’s the antithesis of the inclusive, open, and transparent government that New Jersey deserves.”
In February, Governor Murphy proposed a $44.8 billion State Budget for the upcoming FY 2022 fiscal year that begins July 1. The budget was already set to be the largest in state history before the Murphy administration announced last week that another $5.2 billion in unexpected revenues would be collected from New Jersey taxpayers.
Those funds are in addition to the nearly $6.5 billion in federal relief funds that New Jersey received last month with broad authorization to spend it to help with pandemic response and economic recovery efforts.
All told, Governor Murphy now has $11.5 billion at his disposal that was not anticipated when he proposed the budget less than four months ago.
After revealing the extra $5 billion in tax revenues last week, the State Treasurer abruptly canceled scheduled appearances before the Legislature’s budget committees to avoid discussing or answering questions about the Murphy administration’s plans for the unexpected windfalls.
“It’s absolutely appalling that unimaginable sums of taxpayer money will be divvied up in a backroom by Democratic bosses and Governor Murphy,” added Thompson. “After they’ve cut their deals and finished their back-slapping, they’ll call a quick vote on a budget bill that nobody has seen and pass it with minimal discussion. It’s an affront to New Jersey taxpayers who always play second fiddle to the Democratic party bosses at budget time. This is why hard-working New Jersey families never seem to get a break no matter how many billions the State has in the bank.”
On June 7, Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee publicly proposed a comprehensive plan for both the budget and federal stimulus funds. When the additional billions in tax revenues were revealed last week by the Treasurer, Thompson joined with his Republican colleagues to call for returning $4 billion to New Jersey taxpayers.