Legislative leaders accuse governor of dictatorship

Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin said that Gov. Philip D. Murphy. who wants to raise taxes by more than $1.5 billion, is demanding that lawmakers fall in line instead of negotiating with the legislative leadership to pass a budget on time as the clock ticks toward a July 1 government shutdown.

Murphy and lawmakers in his own party held dueling news conferences but seem no closer to coming up with a budget plan ahead of the constitutional deadline.

“Should the Legislature send me a budget proposal that looks like anything like these charts, I will veto it,” said Murphy of a legislative plan he called full of gimmicks, when the state needs sustainable revenue. “They are proposing almost $1 billion in unsustainable revenues, either in one-shots or two-shots. They’re proposing $450 million in new spending beyond my initial budget. They are including savings and efficiencies that are largely not real.”

Murphy’s spending plan calls for more than $1.5 billion in new taxes, including a hike in the state sales tax, a tax on online purchases, taxes on ride- and home-sharing services, and a millionaires tax.

The governor also wants to legalize recreational marijuana and use tax money to increase pension payments and school aid, assist NJ Transit, implement state-funded pre-kindergarten education plus tuition free community college to low-income students.

Instead of a millionaire’s tax and a restoration of the sales tax to 7 percent, Sweeney and Coughlin prefer hiking the business tax for corporations between $1 million and $25 million to raise the tax to 11.5 percent. Corporations above $25 million would pay 13 percent. Those rates would hold for two years.

“I think it’s incumbent upon the governor to take a look at what we actually put forth,” Coughlin said. “I’m hopeful that when he does, he’ll recognize that 95 percent of the things that he’s looked for are included in that budget.”

“The corporation business tax provides the necessary funding for the general fund to keep the budget in balance,” Sweeney said. “Committing to two years is not a gimmick or a one-shot. It gives the governor two years to start fixing the things that are wrong here.”

Murphy contends that his election gives him a mandate from voters to expand expensive programs but critics say the Democratic millionaire’s election was simply a rejection of former Republican Gov. Chris Christie.

“Only in Trenton do you see a shutdown in government because the Democrats cannot decide on which taxes to raise,” said Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick.

Most Republicans blame Murphy for the standoff more than Sweeney or Coughlin.

“With all due respect to the governor, his inexperience is showing in this budget fight. You need to talk to the other side and you need to compromise,” Bramnick said.

“The man thinks he’s running Goldman Sachs when he sits there, he’s got the final say and what he says goes. It doesn’t work like that,” said Republican Assemblyman John DeMaio.

“A negotiation is a negotiation. A ‘take it or leave it’ is not,” Sweeney said.

“They don’t want to hear what I have to say, and I understand that,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney during an appearance on Fox News.. “But I really don’t want to hear what he has to say.”

Murphy even threatened to veto the appropriations bill, even though he had yet to read the legislators’ spending plan.

“But let’s all just take a moment to reflect and appreciate a state government not run by a selfish thug with a penchant for shouting at teachers before the cold, wet hand of budgetary reality slaps us upside the head,” said Drew Sheneman, the Star-Ledger’s editorial cartoonist. “Nobody in New Jersey knows who the hell he is, but Gov. Murphy is making some waves nationally as the hunger for sane, progressive government reaches a new high point.”

“It’s June and members of the New Jersey Legislature are balking at the state budget proposed by the governor, a former executive with Goldman Sachs'” wrote Colleed O’Dea, a Spotlight reporter who compared Murphy’s budget woes with the first year troubles of former Gov. Jon Corzine..

Sweeney and Coughlin came to an agreement on funding New Jersey’s schools without a broad-based tax hike, according to New Jersey Future Fund, a dark money group set up by the Senate President to promote his political agenda.


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