NJ Politics Digest: Battle Lines Already Drawn Over Future Tax Hikes

Sen. President Sweeney Kevin B. Sanders for Observer

It’s still more than six months until New Jersey politicians have to agree on a new spending plan for the state, but battle lines are already drawn over how to pay for any new programs sought by Gov. Phil Murphy.

On Wednesday, Murphy said he wouldn’t rule out hiking taxes in the state. But on Thursday, Senate President Steve Sweeney joined a chorus of voices from both parties saying they wouldn’t support adding any more to what is already one of the highest tax burdens in the nation.

Sweeney put out a statement saying he wouldn’t support tax hikes until the state makes changes to “government spending and fiscal practices.” Sweeney has been pushing a reform plan that includes taking a look at public employee benefits, including changes to pension and health plans.

Murphy, who is an ally of the state’s powerful teachers’ union, hasn’t expressed interest in pursuing Sweeney’s proposals.

When again defending the need to consider tax hikes, Murphy on Thursday said he’d been elected to “rescue the middle class,” according to a report on NJ.com. Murphy’s plans to raise taxes on the state’s wealthiest residents were thwarted last year in a budget battle with the Democratic legislature. But Murphy has said he hasn’t given up the fight for what he terms “tax fairness.”

Sweeney has criticized the governor for equating the middle class merely with members of the state’s unions and forgetting about the large majority of residents who struggle to pay their high tax bills.

While Murphy contends higher taxes are needed to help fuel an economic turnaround in the state, Sweeney and Republicans in the state say high taxes will only stagnate the economy, while addressing the state’s spending and debt problems that make such hike necessary will fuel economic growth.

Quote of the Day: ‘Period. Full stop.’ — Senate President Steve Sweeney, using a familiar catchphrase of Gov. Phil Murphy to emphasize his determination to thwart any efforts by the governor to raise taxes.

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NJ Politics Digest: Battle Lines Already Drawn Over Future Tax Hikes