NJ Politics Digest: Murphy, Dems Give $10M in Stealth Raises to Legislative Aides

Phil Murphy (left) and Steve Sweeney

Phil Murphy (left) and Steve Sweeney. Christian Hetrick for Observer

You’d think granting $10 million in raises for state employees would be something discussed in a public forum.

But that’s not the way Gov. Phil Murphy and Democratic leaders of the state legislature approached a $10 million package of raises for legislative staff.

While the governor and legislature were fighting about the $37.4 billion budget that included a host of tax increases, the Democrats also quietly pushed through increases of $5 million apiece for state assembly and senate operations, according to reports.

The money increases budgets for legislative staff salaries at 80 local Assembly offices from $110,000 to $135,000, according to NJ.com. The deal also freed up money for raises at 40 Senate offices.

State legislative leaders say the money is needed, since staff have not received raises in 16 years. And Senate President Steve Sweeney said the money, while buried in the paperwork of the state budget, was hidden in plain view.

“It’s right there,” Sweeney said of the budget language. “We’re not hiding it.”

But neither Murphy, who has made much of his efforts to support the state’s middle class, nor the legislature did nothing to publicize this latest example of state largesse. Earlier this year, Murphy and state legislators from both parties earlier also approved $15.6 million for state prosecutors, judges and high-powered political appointees, such as the governor’s cabinet.

State Republicans, expressed outrage over the newly revealed raises, saying the way they were granted comes across as evasive.

New Jersey residents bear one of the highest tax burdens in the nation. It is among the top states in the union for outward migration, with residents citing its high tax burden as a primary cause for leaving.

Murphy—who has approved increases in the state gas tax, as well as new taxes on internet sales, online rentals, ride-sharing services and electronic cigarettes—maintains residents won’t mind paying even more if they feel they are getting their money’s worth in state services.

Quote of the Day: “Whether or not it’s justified, allocating $10 million behind closed doors for such a controversial purpose comes off as deliberately evasive.” — Assemblywoman Amy Handlin (R-Monmouth), on state Democrats quietly approving raises for legislative aides.

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NJ Politics Digest: Murphy, Dems Give $10M in Stealth Raises to Legislative Aides