NJ Politics Digest: Add Homestead Rebate to Murphy’s Budget Woes

Craig Coughlin has put a strong marker down in the wake of a budget snafu

Craig Coughlin
Craig Coughlin. Kevin B. Sanders for Observer

Gov. Phil Murphy still has a lot of ground to cover to convince folks in his own party to support his planned $37.4 billion spending plan, which calls for more than $1.6 billion in new costs for tax-weary state residents.

And now Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin appears to be drawing a line in the sand over Murphy’s plan to short recipients of the state’s popular Homestead Rebate program.

Murphy’s budget plan calls for $143.5 million for homestead credits, which would give recipients only about half what they received under former Gov. Chris Christie, according to published reports.

The rebate goes to about 600,000 state homeowners, and Coughlin sent out a tweet last week that would make it difficult for him to support anything but full funding for the program.

“Rest assured: on my watch, the General Assembly will pass a budget that restores the homestead rebate to ease the tax burden on seniors and middle-class families,” the speaker tweeted.

Murphy, who campaigned on a pledge to support the state’s middle class, says he’ll boost funding for the rebates “if we can figure it out,” according to NJ.com.

Murphy, who is eager to implement a progressive agenda that he says will make the state the envy of the nation, blames his problems on Christie.

“Let’s put it this way. I know what I inherited, which was a fiscal mess. And this is a priority, along with some other mouths that we have to feed,” Murphy said, according to NJ.com

Last week, Murphy announced a contract settlement with the state communication workers union giving the workers two percent raises plus backpay and step increases for extended service. While Murphy initially claimed not to know the settlement’s cost for taxpayers, state officials later said the contract would cost $148.9 million—costs Murphy, again, largely blamed on Christie.

Murphy’s budget also calls for free community college tuition for low-income state residents—Murphy says it’s a “downpayment” on his plan to provide free community college to all, increase in money for public pre-k education and more money for education funding and New Jersey Transit.

The budget seeks to increase the state sales tax, impose new taxes on electronic cigarettes and ride- and home-sharing services and legalize and tax marijuana. Murphy is also calling for a millionaires tax.

Just about all of these measures have sparked varying levels of opposition from both Republicans and Democrats in the legislature. But Murphy contends that people in New Jersey—who already pay among the highest taxes and fees in the nation—are willing to pay more if they feel they are getting their money’s worth from the state.

Quote of the Day: “While we do not oppose a subsidy for nuclear energy if it is first proven to be necessary, we do oppose, as would be required under S-2313, taxpayer and employer subsidies when they are not needed and which are established behind closed doors by the interested parties and without ratepayer participation.’’— a letter sent to Gov. Phil Murphy by state business, environmental and consumer groups urging him to veto a law requiring New Jersey residents to pay to subsidize nuclear power plants in New Jersey and other states.

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NJ Politics Digest: Add Homestead Rebate to Murphy’s Budget Woes