Democratic lawmakers in New Jersey introduced a state budget proposal Monday that does not include a tax hike on millionaires proposed by their fellow Democrat, Gov. Phil Murphy.
Legislative leaders openly rejected the idea in favor of belt-tightening measures. And over the past few weeks, lawmakers in the Democratically-controlled Legislature have released a slow drip of statements claiming they would vote for a budget without the tax increase on the state’s top earners.
But they insist their spending plan still invests in Murphy’s priorities.
“Our budget provides more funding for property tax relief, seniors, veterans, higher education, community colleges, New Jersey Transit, and more without raising taxes on New Jerseyans,” said Assemblywoman Eliana Pinto Marin, D-Essex.
Some Republicans praised the Democrats’ proposed budget, even though the total amount is higher than what Murphy suggested.
“I guess we can claim it is fiscally responsible not to raise taxes. It’s a conservative ideal that we believe in,” said Assemblyman John DiMaio, R-Warren. “But to spend more money is really not a conservative thing.”
State Sen. President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, has said the state should reform public worker pensions and benefits before raising taxes.
Yet Murphy criticized lawmakers for leaving the tax hike on millionaires out of their spending plan.
“The budget introduced today falls short on the principle of tax fairness. It leaves us without the stable and sustainable revenues to secure the investments we seek to make in our people and our state,” Murphy said in a statement.
“It makes unnecessary cuts to valuable programs while increasing spending on non-vital ones and eliminates our first deposit in a decade into the state’s empty Rainy Day Fund, leaving New Jerseyans less prepared for an economic downturn,” he added.
Lawmakers in the Senate and Assembly Budget Committees approved identical legislation during hearings on Monday.
Justin Goldsman, who chairs the group Our Revolution Essex County, testified before the Assembly Budget Committee that he supported Murphy’s millionaire’s tax.
“I’m not here to shame or demonize anybody who’s done well. I thank them for their contributions,” Goldsman said. “I am going to ask that they start paying their fair share. This budget should have the millionaire’s tax included in it.”
Murphy has made the tax hike on millionaires, which he also campaigned on and pushed for in his previous spending plan, a cornerstone of his budget proposal.
Last year, lawmakers agreed to raise the income tax from 8.97% to 10.75% on people making over $5 million. Murphy wanted the increase to apply to filers earning at least $1 million as well.