NJ Politics Digest: Sweeney and Murphy Set to Hash Out the Budget

New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney.
New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney. Kevin B. Sanders for Observer

When he introduced his budget proposal for the coming year, Gov. Phil Murphy said he knew changes would be made. Now, the state’s second-most-powerful Democrat is weighing in on what those changes may look like.

Senate President Steve Sweeney, who clashed with Murphy over the budget last year, said it was necessary that the Murphy plan do more to reduce the cost of public worker pensions and benefits in order to help the state avoid fiscal calamity, according to a report by NJSpotlight.

Sweeney is also sticking by his call for the spending plan to avoid an expansion of the state millionaire’s tax, which Sweeney warns will drive high wage earners from New Jersey and increase the tax burden on the middle class, according to the report.

Murphy made sure to extend an olive branch—or at least an opening toward compromise—in his budget plan. At this point, Sweeney has also expressed his desire to avoid a government shutdown, which would occur if the state leaders can’t reach a budget deal by July 1. Last year, conflict between Murphy and Democratic legislative leaders pushed the state to the brink of a shutdown.

It remains to be seen if the conciliatory words will translate into agreement. Sweeney is also calling on Murphy to increase aid to New Jersey Transit, and opposes providing new funding for Murphy’s efforts to provide free community college to low-income residents.

Quote of the Day: “What happens is, when you get savings, there’s always a pressing need, there’s always a project that someone wanted to do. ‘Guess what? (Revenue) just fell out of the sky, now I can build my playground.’ — State Senate President Steve Sweeney, on the need for fiscal discipline in municipalities in which costs decrease.

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