NJ Politics Digest: Murphy Still Bargaining for Millionaires’ Tax

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy delivering the 2019 New Jersey State of the State address in the Assembly Chambers at the New Jersey State House in Trenton.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy delivering the 2019 New Jersey State of the State address in the Assembly Chambers at the New Jersey State House in Trenton. Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Gov. Phil Murphy is hoping that offering residents a one-shot $125 credit on their income taxes will gain him enough public support to win approval for his proposal to permanently raise the state tax on millionaires.

But Murphy’s chief foe in the battle to raise the tax said the offer still isn’t going anywhere unless the governor also agrees to make changes that will permanently reduce the cost of government and provide more long-term tax relief to residents.

As NJ101.5 reports, Senate President Steve Sweeney reiterated his opposition to the millionaires’ tax after Murphy held an event Monday to publicize the planned tax credit and generate public pressure on the Legislature. The governor and state lawmakers must agree on a budget by July 1 or face the possibility of a state government shutdown. Right now, such an agreement among the state’s top Democrats appears unlikely. Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin oppose the millionaires’ tax—saying raising the burden on the state’s highest earners will only drive them and their tax revenue from the state.

It’s unclear how much support Murphy’s plan has among rank-and-file Democratic legislators, though, even if support is strong, Sweeney and Coughlin can still prevent any proposals from reaching the floor for a vote.

Murphy seems to be hoping that, in the event of a shutdown, he can cast the battle as him fighting to provide tax relief while the legislative leaders are working to protect millionaires. It’s unclear if that will work. In general, the public tends to blame the chief executive when government services are shut, no matter what the battle.

Amid the rhetoric Monday, Sweeney did seem to indicate that he’d be willing to compromise with the governor, perhaps tying passage of the millionaires’ tax to approval of reforms he’s pushing for. While that would put Murphy at odds with the public workers’ unions, it would allow him to claim victory on two counts—passing the tax he’d fought for and taking large steps to put the state’s fiscal house in order.

Quote of the Day: “If the only way we’re going to have a budget is with a millionaires’ tax, well then we’re going to have a problem. I’m not doing a millionaires’ tax without fixing what’s wrong here,” — Senate President Steve Sweeney on the need to address structural problems such as the high cost of public worker pensions and benefits.

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NJ Politics Digest: Murphy Still Bargaining for Millionaires’ Tax