Senator Steven Oroho says Governor Phil Murphy’s proposed budget for FY21 gives New Jerseyans more reasons to leave the state in this Asbury Park Press editorial published on February 28, 2020:
New Jersey is facing a crisis of affordability that is driving young adults, families, and retirees from the Garden State.
Sen. Steven Oroho says Gov. Phil Murphy’s proposed budget for FY21 gives New Jerseyans more reasons to leave the state in this Asbury Park Press editorial. (©iStock.com)
Rather than offer solutions to tackle this crisis head-on in his state budget proposal for next year, Gov. Murphy has given New Jersey residents more reasons to leave.
According to a recent survey conducted by Garden State Initiative and Fairleigh Dickinson University, almost half of New Jersey residents have plans to eventually move from the Garden State, with nearly one-third actively planning their exit within the next five years.
The reasons cited for these departures — high property taxes and an excessive cost of living — should not be surprising to anyone who has listened to friends, neighbors, and family who are reaching the limit of what they can afford.
What is surprising, however, is that Murphy has chosen to ignore the increasingly vocal concerns of New Jerseyans by proposing a budget that further adds to the fiscal pressure on residents at every income level. His plan would raise state spending by 5% over last year’s budget and by 18% since he took office two years ago.
The governor also has proposed nearly $1 billion in new taxes, on top of the billions he has already raised on workers, employers, natural gas and electric bills, and ride-sharing services.
What makes his tax-hiking proposal so egregious is that it’s wholly unnecessary. State revenue collections are already growing quickly without any tax changes. In fact, we’re on pace to collect 5% more in revenues — around $1.5 billion more — than we did last year.
If the state has record-high tax collections — much more than projected — why is Murphy insisting on raising taxes yet again? It comes down to a lack of fiscal discipline, which is evidenced by what was conspicuously left out of his budget proposal.
In every prior year, a section of the governor’s budget brief has highlighted supplemental spending that was added over the course of the fiscal year to address emergent needs. This year, however, that was left out, likely to hide a massive increase of nearly $1.25 billion in new spending that the Murphy administration added after the state’s current budget was adopted last June.
Some of that spending may have been necessary, but most of it likely was not. Due to this lack of transparency, we do not yet know how Murphy spent this extra money and cannot determine if it was warranted.
We do know, however, that this spending spree has completely consumed the windfall of tax revenues the state has received as a result of our vibrant national economy.
In total, Murphy’s spending plans will only add to the overwhelming financial burden already felt by so many New Jersey families and provide them with even greater incentive to consider moving elsewhere. Undoubtedly, taxpayers are witnessing a missed opportunity of epic proportions.
The governor could have demonstrated fiscal discipline and not spent every penny of unexpected money that came into the state’s coffers this fiscal year. That $1.5 billion in revenue growth could have completely offset the nearly $1 billion in tax increases he has proposed for fiscal year 2021.
Murphy also could have accepted the Legislature’s invitation to work together to advance some of the bipartisan structural reforms we proposed that would reduce the biggest cost drivers for government and taxpayers.
We have offered well-researched plans that could be enacted to help all levels of government to reduce staggering pension and benefit costs and to eliminate outrageous abuses, like six-figure payouts to retiring public officials for unused sick time.
Our reforms would do much more than just slow the growth of government spending or prevent property tax bills from rising so fast. If our plans were enacted, property taxpayers could actually see their bills go down. That’s the kind of change that could succeed in keeping New Jerseyans in New Jersey.
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