NJ Politics Digest: Murphy’s Budget Freezes Affect Cancer Patients, College Students

Phil Murphy

Governor of New Jersey Phil Murphy. Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for iStar

Gov. Phil Murphy has frozen state spending that would aid four-year colleges and southern New Jersey cancer programs.

When Gov. Phil Murphy froze $235 million in state spending after losing the budget fight this year with Democrats in the state legislature, he took aim at programs to fund cancer programs, aid distressed cities and help stem the rising cost of higher education in the state.

As NJ.com reports, the three highly popular funding targets were among those Murphy froze after the state legislature refused to consider his efforts to raise a variety of state taxes, particularly an increase on what the state’s highest earners must pay.

In addition to line-item vetoing items he apparently considered important to Senate President Steve Sweeney and other foes, Murphy also froze spending on $235 million in state budget items, claiming he isn’t sure the state can afford them.

The freezes seemed aimed at Sweeney and also hit residents in the area he represents. This includes $15.4 million for cancer programs in southern New Jersey.

Colleges will also take a hit at a time when reports indicate the cost of four-year state institutions is rapidly growing out of reach for the state’s middle class families. Murphy, incensed the legislature cut funding for his program to provide free community college to low-income residents and increase eligibility to include more middle-class students, froze $7.5 million for Montclair State University, $12 million for Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, $4.6 million to Stockton University, $2.5 million for the Rutgers New Brunswick School of Engineering, and $1 million each to Ramapo College, Thomas Edison University, The College of New Jersey and New Jersey City University, according to the NJ.com report.

Murphy claims the freezes are needed because his administration has lowered the legislature’s revenue forecast by $200 million, even though this year the state collected hundreds of millions more in revenue than the administration predicted in 2018. While only the state Assembly can introduce revenue measures, the administration has the authority to project revenue, allowing Murphy and his appointees to set forecasts that support his goals.

Quote of the Day: “He’s hurting innocent people, not insiders. Cancer patients are not insiders. Stockton students are not insiders,” — Senate President Steve Sweeney

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NJ Politics Digest: Murphy’s Budget Freezes Affect Cancer Patients, College Students