In Brief

Republicans: Taxpayers should feel ‘cheated’ by Governor Murphy’s budget plan

By: - February 28, 2023 5:14 pm

Assembly Minority Leader John DiMaio and Assembly budget officer Hal Wirths talk about Gov. Phil Murphy’s $53.1 billion budget plan at the Statehouse on Feb. 28, 2023. (Dana DiFilippo | New Jersey Monitor)

To Assemblyman Hal Wirths, the many tax cuts Gov. Phil Murphy claimed in his budget address Tuesday felt like a waterbed — when you push down in one place, a half dozen other places pop up.

“I’m having a very difficult time finding the 18 tax cuts that the governor has said he’s put in place,” said Wirths (R-Sussex), the chamber’s GOP budget officer. “But I do remember 60 tax increases. This is a government that increased spending 53% in the last six years. I mean, that’s an absurd amount.”

Wirths and Assemblyman John DiMaio, the chamber’s GOP leader, challenged much of Murphy’s $53.1 billion proposal in a 20-minute rebuttal at the Statehouse after the governor’s budget address.

They blasted the tax-relief program known as ANCHOR, saying state officials shouldn’t tax people in the first place only to make them apply to get it back later. They also criticized his COVID-relief spending, including buying SUVs for himself and his administration and earmarking some to build a New Jersey Hall of Fame at the American Dream megamall.

And they pointed to Murphy’s plan for a $10 billion state surplus and proposed “gimmicks” like suspending state park fees for the second year in a row as reasons why Murphy should embrace their calls to cut taxes directly instead.

“New Jersey’s affordability is talked about by the Democrats in the Legislature. Nothing happens,” DiMaio said. “There is an opportunity to cut taxes this year, not talk about non-existent tax cuts. We could cut taxes. The money’s here.”

New Jersey residents should feel “cheated” by Murphy’s budget plan, Wirths added. With property taxes statewide averaging over $9,000 and one of the highest income taxes in the nation, he said, “I think they should get more than a free pass to the park.”

Senate Republicans piled on, ripping the governor for toll increases, pork spending, and rising income, business, and payroll taxes.

They complained that state school funding — redistributed in recent years to increase equity between urban, suburban, and rural districts — fell in so many districts on Murphy’s watch that local officials hiked property taxes to compensate.

“The governor likes to claim that an increase in school funding is a decrease in taxes,” said Sen. Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth), that body’s budget officer. “Of our 600 districts, 200 of them are getting cuts in aid. Another 100 are getting increases less than the rate of inflation. By my math, half of our school districts are getting an increase in property taxes.”

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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.