NJ Politics Digest: Murphy Turns to Tough Task of Selling Tax Hikes

Republicans panned it, and Democrats seemed lukewarm, so on Wednesday Gov. Phil Murphy turned to the task of selling his $37.4 billion budget.

Gov. Phil Murphy.
Gov. Phil Murphy. Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

Republicans panned it and Democrats seemed lukewarm at best, so on Wednesday Gov. Phil Murphy turned to the task of selling his $37.4 billion budget—and it’s attendant $1.5 billion hike in taxes—to New Jersey residents.

Murphy, who had campaigned on a promise to help the state’s financially battered middle class, surprised everyone during his budget address Tuesday with his call to hike the state’s recently reduced sales tax—additional costs he claims few New Jersey families will notice. Murphy also wants to collect taxes on online sales—a move New Jersey voters are sure to notice—and on ride-sharing and home-sharing services.

Meanwhile, Murphy, at this point, has managed to convey few easy-to-understand examples of how his budget will help middle class families. He did pledge Wednesday to avoid fare hikes at New Jersey Transit, but his pledge to provide free community college to all residents remains a promise he says he will implement in coming years.

Instead, his spending plan this year calls for assistance for low-income residents. He has pledged to increase school funding, but specifics of how that plan will impact local tax bills are not yet available. The same can be said for his proposal to allocate $57 million to expand pre-k programs in the state.

The budget would create a child and dependent care tax credit. The administration said this will save 74,000 families about $12 million. How the proposal—and it’s broad assessment of impact—resonates with tax-weary young families has yet to be seen.

Critics have slammed the budget for failing to include spending cuts, and Republicans have already tried to paint Murphy’s proposals as a replay of former Gov. Jim Florio’s much-despised tax hikes. Some Democrats, meanwhile, have been balking at the governor’s plan to implement a millionaires tax and to legalize and tax the sale of marijuana.

But the governor is undeterred, saying in a radio interview Wednesday that residents won’t mind additions to the state’s already high tax burden if they feel they are getting value for their money. He faulted former Gov. Chris Christie’s efforts to rein in spending over the last eight years as having hurt middle class families.

Quote of the Day: “Frankly, I’m a big fan of Gov. Florio’s. The ghost I’m dealing with is Chris Christie.” — Gov. Phil Murphy, on critics who compare his budget’s planned tax hikes to those implemented by former Gov. Jim Florio.

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