In Brief

Murphy proposes $60M ‘fee holiday’ for state parks, marriage and driver’s licenses

By: - March 8, 2022 6:40 pm

(New Jersey Monitor)

If you’re one of those people whose eyes glaze over when talk turns to taxes and things like debt defeasance, Gov. Phil Murphy has one word for you: freebies.

One of Murphy’s budget recommendations is a year’s worth of fee waivers for a hodgepodge of items, an idea mocked as a gimmick by the governor’s Republican critics. Under Murphy’s $48.9 billion budget plan, drivers would pay nothing to renew their licenses, couples would get a marriage license for free, residents would get free entry to state parks, and certain health care professionals applying for or renewing their licenses would do so at no cost.

The yearlong “fee holiday,” as Murphy called it, would amount to a $60 million loss in revenue.

The biggest revenue loss would be free driver’s license renewals, with $42 million earmarked for the 1.75 million drivers the state expects will need to renew their license. It typically costs $24 for a driver to renew a license, according to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission.

About 130,000 nurses, home health aides, and other health care workers would have their fees waived, at a cost of $13 million, according to a Treasury spokeswoman.

Free state park entry is next, with an expected 260,000 free entries at a cost of $2.7 million. Most state parks are free, but about 20 have entry fees ranging from $2 to $10, and an annual pass costs $50, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection. People 62 or older and those with disabilities are always free.

And about 54,000 couples would dodge $1.1 million in license fees. Marriage licenses cost $28 in New Jersey, according to the state Department of Health.

The waivers prompted ridicule from Republicans who gathered across the hall from the Assembly chambers after the governor delivered his speech.

Sen. Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth) blasted the fee waivers as “a gimmick.”

“It’s a drop in a bucket, and it’s a drop in the bucket of very few people,” O’Scanlon said. “Most people won’t see a dime of that. If you really want to give money back to people, do it as broad-based as possible.”


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Dana DiFilippo
Dana DiFilippo

Dana DiFilippo comes to the New Jersey Monitor from WHYY, Philadelphia’s NPR station, and the Philadelphia Daily News, a paper known for exposing corruption and holding public officials accountable. Prior to that, she worked at newspapers in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and suburban Philadelphia and has freelanced for various local and national magazines, newspapers and websites. She lives in Central Jersey with her husband, a photojournalist, and their two children.