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Senator Steven Oroho

Senator Steve Oroho

Oroho’s Remarks at Start of State Budget Hearing Process

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As the Senate Budget & Appropriations Committee began hearings into Governor Phil Murphy’s FY 2022 State Budget proposal today, Senator Steven Oroho (R-24) said the Murphy Administration hasn’t been transparent about the State’s finances, hasn’t helped New Jerseyans during the pandemic, and is setting the stage for tax increases next year.

At the start of the budget hearing process, Sen. Steven Oroho said the Murphy Administration hasn’t been transparent about the State’s finances, hasn’t helped New Jerseyans during the pandemic, and is setting the stage for tax increases next year. (Pixabay)

Oroho, the Senate Republican Budget Officer, delivered the following remarks at the first budget hearing:

Thank you, Chairman Sarlo.

It’s good to be back to a somewhat regular budget hearing process after all of the disruption over the past year.

It’s my hope that we don’t give the Murphy administration another free pass like they got with the current budget. We simply can’t afford it.

During the pandemic, the Murphy administration has not been transparent about our state’s finances, they haven’t used the billions of federal relief or State surplus funds at their disposal to help people, and they’re setting New Jersey up for major tax increases a year from now.

Without significant oversight or scrutiny from the Legislature, we all witnessed the administration as it peddled outrageous claims about the State’s finances.

The governor said we were at risk of being $10 billion, $20 billion, even $30 billion in the red.

The administration used those sky-is-falling claims to sell the state Supreme Court on a $9.9 billion borrowing plan that wasn’t needed.

Republicans warned last fall that there was no emergency need to borrow, that the governor was building a massive surplus to spend in his election-year budget.

That’s proven to be the case, exactly as we predicted.

As we heard this morning from OLS, the actual shortfall due to COVID is likely down to a few hundred million dollars — a far cry from the more than $4 billion loss the governor certified to the Supreme Court.

By the time the fiscal year closes out, it’s entirely possible there will have been no loss at all.

So, I appreciate the Senate President saying recently that he regrets supporting the Murphy administration’s unnecessary borrowing plan.

And I think it demonstrates why full legislative oversight of the governor’s fiscal plans is so critically important.

While Governor Murphy was pleading for more money last year, he sat for months on billions in federal CARES Act relief funds that could have been used to help people.

Bipartisan bills to help businesses and keep people employed were even vetoed.

We need to acknowledge all the essential employees who kept doing their jobs and the businesses that persevered — despite the unique and difficult circumstances presented by both the virus and this administration.

Unfortunately, many, many businesses that needed help didn’t get it.

Instead of funding emergency grant and loan programs for small businesses as we recommended when the State got $2.4 billion from the CARES Act last April, Governor Murphy did almost nothing with most of the money for more than six months.

As a result of the governor’s failure to act, more than one-third of New Jersey’s small businesses have gone out of business, and nearly two-million New Jerseyans have struggled with unemployment.

The Legislature deserves some of the blame. It made the mistake of giving Governor Murphy the power to appropriate federal relief funds unilaterally, abdicating our role as a co-equal branch of government.

That’s a mistake we clearly need to fix, especially with another $6.5 billion in direct federal aid coming to New Jersey.

It’s imperative that we use that money in a way that helps people overcome the challenges of the pandemic, solves big problems, and doesn’t create a fiscal cliff in future years.

A good example is fixing New Jersey’s woefully outdated and broken technology systems like UI, motor vehicles, and many others.

Another example is we can shore up our UI Fund to prevent a major tax increase that will his struggling employers in just three months.

And we can prevent the school aid cuts proposed by Governor Murphy that would hurt 200 school districts that are already facing an uphill battle trying to maintain our children’s education.

Unfortunately, it appears that the Murphy Administration’s only priority is to get reelected this year.

The multi-billion-dollar surplus the governor built while people suffered, the billions he borrowed unnecessarily, and billions in federal aid are going to fund a massive expansion of government in Governor Murphy’s proposed budget — an election year budget — that we won’t be able to afford after this year.

Next year — when the surplus is spent down, when the borrowed money is gone, and when the federal stimulus tap runs dry — you can be  sure Governor Murphy will call for more tax increases — if he’s still in office.

So this Budget Committee has an important job to do. We have to ask the tough questions, and we have to hold the administration accountable.

We can’t give the governor another free pass, because a free pass for the governor today will cost New Jersey taxpayers dearly tomorrow.

Chairman Sarlo, I hope we can work together — on a bipartisan basis — to hold Governor Murphy accountable and to give New Jerseyans the affordable, transparent, and effective budget they deserve.

Thank you.

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