TRENTON — When he was running for governor, Phil Murphy was up front about his progressive agenda, and warned it came with a cost. Since he took office, Murphy and administration officials have frequently said tax hikes may be necessary.

Cloaked in "tax fairness" language, Murphy has yet to offer specifics. On March 5, he will present his budget to the legislature.

To maintain just the current level of funding, Murphy could be looking at a multi-billion dollar deficit. News from his own treasurer could be an ominous sign it could be much worse. Tax collections have been way off. Just to bring the current budget into balance, New Jersey needs another $680 million by June 30.

New Jersey 101.5 State House Correspondent Michael Symons detailed how badly the Murphy administration has forecast revenues for the current budget. Murphy's budget experts were counting on growth between 6 and 7.5 percent. Actual collections were between 1 and 2 percent. For December, tax collections were 10 percent lower than estimates.

Even revenues from former Gov. Chris Christie's gas tax hike are less than expected, likely triggering another hike in the gas tax. The only area where tax collections exceeded projections was from New Jersey businesses, which got hit with a tax hike last year.

After hiking taxes more than $1 billion dollars last year, Murphy will need billions in additional revenue to fully fund the state worker pension system and increase school funding. Murphy postulates more money in state aid to schools will ultimately reduce your property taxes. But even if that is true, the tax hikes that would make that level of funding possible might mitigate any potential savings on your property tax bill. There is also no guarantee your local school district would pass any funding windfall on to you.

The best news for taxpayers may be the lack of appetite for tax hikes among both Democrats and Republicans in the legislature. Legislative leaders have repeatedly told me that tax hike proposals from the governor will be dead on arrival. That includes a millionaires' tax hike, which had the support of Senate President Steve Sweeney in the past.

Additionally, with Murphy crippled by a legislative investigation into his hiring practices connected to the appointment of an accused rapist to a senior staff position, any leverage he will have with Democrats to push through massive tax hikes will be severely limited.

That does not mean Trenton can't, and won't, get creative about how to take more of your money. History has taught us never to underestimate government's ability to slip their hand in your pocket.

Eric Scott is Vice President, Senior Political Director and Director of Special Projects for New Jersey 101.5. He anchors "New Jersey's First News" and weekday morning newscasts from 5 to 10 a.m., in addition to hosting a bimonthly Town Hall series.

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