NJ Politics Digest: Murphy Claims He’ll Hold the Line on Middle Class Taxes—Someday

Phil Murphy

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. Flickr/Phil Murphy for Governor

Trust him.

Gov. Phil Murphy says that once he raises the state sales tax and imposes new taxes on sharing services, and marijuana purchases, he won’t raise any more taxes on the state’s middle class.

In an interview with The Record, Murphy touted his progressive agenda and said he hopes economic growth in future years will help pay for his plans to expand programs without needing to raise taxes on middle-income residents.

Murphy, who campaigned on a promise to grow New Jersey from the middle out, is facing push back from the legislative leaders in his own party on his plans to raise more than $1.6 billion in new taxes in his proposed budget. This includes opposition to raising broad taxes—such as the sales tax—and even hikes targeting some of  New Jersey’s wealthiest.

Some Democrats say Murphy’s plan for a millionaires tax, combined with Republican changes to the federal tax law that capped deductions for state and local taxes, could push high-earners out of the state. Murphy, however, contends that a competing plan by state Senate President Steve Sweeney to increases taxes on corporations earning more than $1 million in New Jersey would make the state less competitive.

Murphy contends that tax weary residents are willing to pay more if they feel they are getting their money’s worth from shouldering one of the highest tax burdens in the country. Murphy’s plan increases aid to New Jersey Transit and could help cut property taxes by increasing school aid.

But the spending plan falls short on other Murphy promises to help the middle class.

The budget, for example, does increase community college aid for low-income residents. Murphy says this is a “down payment,” and that he hopes to some day fulfill his promise to also pay the tuition for middle class students, too—a promise critics say is far too expensive for the state to ever afford. Critics also contend that Democrats’ plan to extend financial aid to immigrants in the country illegally will also reduce the pool of aid available to students who are legal residents of the state.

Murphy’s also facing criticism from opponents for his failure to support a re-extension of the state salary arbitration cap—which some claim saved taxpayers $530 million between 2011 and 2018 by curbing salary increases for police and firefighters. The cap expired in January, and Murphy defended his inaction by saying he hasn’t seen signs of significant salary increases in the ensuing three months.

Murphy’s plan to raise the sales tax had come as a surprise to some after campaign officials said in an August interview with Observer that such a hike was “not part of our proposal.”

Quote of the Day: “If you’re in the middle class, the answer is no, that’s just not going to happen. And we’re being as explicit about that as possible.”  — Gov. Phil Murphy, who wants to raise the sales tax and add taxes on electronic cigarettes, internet purchases and ride- and home-sharing services, promising that after those taxes are adopted, he won’t impose any more new taxes on the state’s middle class. The Murphy campaign also said prior to his election that, if he became governor, he would not to raise the sales tax.

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NJ Politics Digest: Murphy Claims He’ll Hold the Line on Middle Class Taxes—Someday