‘Sucker signed’: Murphy approves New Jersey’s biggest spending plan ever

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed the state's largest budget ever after swift passage by the Legislature with little time for public scrutiny of the bill.

New Jersey Statehouse in Trenton

New Jersey Statehouse in Trenton. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

With the stroke of a pen, Gov. Phil Murphy signed off on New Jersey’s biggest spending plan ever, five days after its quick passage by the Legislature.

At a signing ceremony Tuesday at an elementary school in Woodbridge, officials hailed the budget as being one for the people of New Jersey.

After other officials spoke, Murphy said he could not wait to sign the $46.4 billion plan.

“No need for more time on the clock, let’s sign the sucker!”

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Murphy presented his budget proposal in February. It was formally introduced in the Legislature last Tuesday. It was the same day that the governor, Senate President Steve Sweeney, and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin announced an agreement on tax relief measures.

Those measures include a tax rebate of up to $500 for more than 750,000 families earning up to $150,000 in the state, increased property tax relief for seniors, people with disabilities, and lower-income people, and expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit.

The budget passed the Legislature Thursday along party lines, about 12 minutes after it was publicly posted. The break-neck speed raised the eyebrows of Republicans and some progressives, who said it allowed virtually no time for public scrutiny of the bill, which includes millions for legislative pet projects.

Sweeney on Tuesday defended the budget.

“It’s not pork … it’s people,” he said.

“Every one of those investments is in the people of the state of New Jersey, not anywhere else,” he added. “So, it’s not like coming up with crazy programs, it’s trying to help the people of this state.”

The budget also includes a record contribution into the state’s pension system and more money for K-12 schools.

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After months of fiduciary doom and gloom, the state found itself with a revenue windfall of more than $11 billion. The bulk of the windfall comes from a combination of federal aid from the American Rescue Plan and sales tax collections that exceeded expectations. Those funds were also taken into account in the new budget.

Murphy said the budget honors commitments and pays the bills.

“This is a budget that builds a stronger, fairer New Jersey that works for every family,” he said. “Most of all, this is a budget that moves our state forward.”

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