Murphy’s $38.6B ‘blueprint’ – Tax millionaires, give middle class breaks
TRENTON — Calling himself a “pro-growth progressive,” Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday delivered his second annual budget address, laying out a $38.6 billion “blueprint for the middle class” that calls on raising taxes on the state’s millionaires.
“Our license plates say, ‘New Jersey, the Garden State.’ But even more than that, New Jersey is the middle-class state. We are all in this together. And, coming together is how we succeed,” Murphy said.
Murphy is looking to add to his list of first-term wins — the eventual $15 minimum wage, expanded paid family leave and earned paid sick days for private-sector workers — with a new 10.75 percent tax on incomes more than $1 million.
Long a goal of progressives, the millionaire’s tax was shot down by former Republican Gov. Chris Christie and has been resisted from the leaders of Murphy’s own party.
The millionaire’s tax would generate an estimated $447 million. Murphy’s spending plan anticipates a 6.9 percent growth in income tax revenues, to $16.6 billion.
“Let’s be absolutely clear – this is not a tax that will be paid by anyone in the middle class. Period. Full stop," Murphy said.
He also renewed is support for recreational marijuana legalization but said he would only sign a bill that expunges the criminal records for past marijuana offenses. While not yet law, his proposed budget already anticipates $60 million in weed tax revenues, $21 million of which would be eaten up by administrative costs associated with lighting up the program.
His proposed budget also includes more than $1.1 billion in savings, most of which comes from $800 million in negotiated cost savings for state employee health benefits.
The budget also anticipates a surplus for the second year in a row — of more than $1 billion, more than the $745 million that had been projected last year.
His budget would provide property-tax payers with $283 million in direct tax relief and $400 million in savings through municipal and school budgets.
Among the spending items would be another $206 million in education funds after having boosted school aid by $350 million last year. This would include $68 million to maintain and expand pre-kindergarten.
Murphy also wants to expand tuition-free degrees to all 19 community colleges. Last year, the state began funding tuition-free programs for low-income students at 13 schools. His budget would provide $20 million in new funding for all public colleges and universities as well as $5 million more for Tuition Aid Grants and $2.25 million for the Educational Opportunity Fund, which are now available to student residents who lack the legal status to be in the country.
Murphy also touted providing public funding for Planned Parenthood, a nonprofit healthcare provider often the target of conservatives and Republicans opposed to funding abortion providers.
His proposal would also fine companies who employ more than 50 people who rely on Medicaid for their health insurance. These companies would have to pay $150 per worker each year. This would raise an estimated $30 million.
“They should share in the burden of paying for their employee’s care, rather than leaving it to the rest of us,” Murphy said.
Also in the proposal:
— A $3.8 billion payment to the state pension system.
— $100 million for opioid addiction services.
— No fare hikes for NJ Transit, which would get $407 million in state spending, a $100 million increase. The increase includes $75 million in funds that had been spent elsewhere.
— Increase gun licensing fees, which Murphy says remains at $2 — less than most dog licenses.
Michael Symons contributed to this report.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.