Lawmakers pass largest spending bill in New Jersey history; bill criticized for alterations
New Jersey lawmakers have passed a $46 billion spending bill – the largest in state history.
However, the budget is being criticized for being dramatically altered in just the last three days.
“We don’t have to do this. It doesn’t have to be this way,” says Brandon McKoy, with New Jersey Policy Perspective.
Hours before the legislature was set to vote on the bill, progressive groups rallied outside the State House over what they say is a spending plan rammed through by Democratic party bosses and Gov. Phil Murphy.
“It is Democrats in New Jersey and as a Democrat that makes me sick to my stomach,” says Sue Altman, with New Jersey Working Families.
"Quite frankly when you have a process that ends in three white men in a room that is white supremacy. That upholds systemic racism,” says McKoy.
Inside the State House, Republicans in the state Senate also tried and failed to derail the budget and its 15% state spending increase. Senators say that the budget balloons to over $50 billion when federal stimulus money is counted.
“Fifty-one billion dollars is virtual insanity,” says Republican state Sen. Bob Singer.
The budget does include $500 property tax rebate checks and expanded property tax relief, but currently no money for New Jersey's beleaguered unemployment fund.
“A payroll tax increase that we can prevent is set to hit employers just one week from today,” says Senate Minority Leader Sen. Tom Kean Jr. “This budget does nothing about it. That is absolutely unconscionable.”
"I don't believe we rushed this year, quite frankly, but you're all under the impression that we rushed,” says Budget Committee Chair Sen. Paul Sarlo.
Sarlo, a Democrat, said that the main budget has been around for months, even as members of his committee were asked to vote on related spending bills they had never seen this week.
"The 285-page document has been sitting in the public domain for some three months. The score sheets that modified the budget, the adders and deducts about 14 pages,” Sarlo says. “I don't believe there's any wasteful spending because all of the spending here is for an intended purpose."
Gov. Murphy has the option of signing the budget as it is or removing some spending items through a line-item veto.