TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday unveiled a $53.1 billion budget for fiscal year 2024, about 5% more than the spending plan he signed for the current year, proposing more school aid, a renewed property tax rebate program and billions more for public pensions, transportation and other projects.
Murphy, who won a second term as governor in 2021, cast the budget as a helping hand to residents facing risings costs and fallout from COVID-19.
“First it was the pandemic, and now it is inflation. You’ve been paying more for everything from gas to groceries, and your paycheck hasn’t kept up,” he said. “This entire budget is purpose-built to help you find your place in the next New Jersey by securing your place in the New Jersey of right now.”
The governor announced his plan during a speech in the Democrat-led Legislature’s Assembly chamber, an annual tradition that halted during the height of the COVID-19 outbreak. New Jersey’s constitutional deadline to enact a balanced budget is June 30.
Murphy is seeking to carry out campaign promises he made in his first gubernatorial run: For a third straight year, he has proposed making a full payment to the state’s public pension fund. That would be about $7 billion, up $250 million from last year. The pIan would finance K-12 education according to a formula approved by the state Supreme Court, increasing funding about 8% to $10.75 billion. The governor also wants to hold New Jersey Transit fares flat and set aside about $1 billion for universal pre-K, up $110 million over the current year.
The proposal includes no tax increases.
Murphy campaigned for office in part on raising income tax rates on people making more than $1 million, a promise he and lawmakers fulfilled in 2020. That year’s budget also increased business taxes by 1 percentage point, a raise designed to expire after four years. That time’s is up, and Murphy isn’t seeking to renew the higher tax rate.
The governor also aims to renew a property tax rebate program for a second year, part of his push to cast the state as more affordable. The program carries a $2 billion price tag and promises families making up to $150,000 a rebate check of $1,500. Those earning from $150,000 to $250,000 get $1,000 in rebates. Continuing last year’s assistance for renters, those making up to $150,000 would get $450. The program would help an estimated an estimated 1.5 million households.
New Jersey has among the highest property taxes in the nation, averaging about $9,500 a year.
Republicans — in the minority in the Legislature but emboldened after picking up seven seats in 2021 — panned the proposal, calling on the governor to cut taxes.
“When the state is flush with money, there’s no excuse for Governor Murphy to continue ignoring tax relief that would make a big difference to families and businesses struggling with inflation,” Senate Republican Steve Oroho said.
Murphy’s proposal must first progress through the Legislature, which can alter it before the governor signs it into law. All 120 state lawmakers are on the ballot this November.