While new taxes and big spending on things like pensions and transit — and smaller dollars for women’s healthcare — have received the most attention, Gov. Phil Murphy’s new budget also includes allotments for other health and welfare items that reflect his progressive agenda.
Murphy included funding for gun violence research, expanding services for individuals with autism and other disabilities, supporting staff serving some of the state’s most vulnerable families, and improving the state medical examiner’s office, which critics contend is under-resourced and overwhelmed.
“Congress has refused to fund such necessary research for over two decades. It is now up to the states to lead. This investment will start this long-overdue process,” Murphy said of the investment in gun-violence research during his budget speech Tuesday.
“When we formed States for Gun Safety, I recognized the critical need for the data-driven research we need to enact better public policy. Working together with our partner states, we’re taking that approach,” Murphy said of the alliance he formed last month with the governors of New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, following the shooting at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
The Democratic governor, who took office two months ago, also cut back on spending for several programs that officials said were pet projects for former Gov. Chris Christie or lawmakers, enabling him to shift the money to new priorities. Among the items slated for reductions are wage increases for direct-care professionals who work in various roles for the state and money for Federally Qualified Health Clinics, which care for some of the poorest residents.
Not set in stone
None of this is set in stone, however, since state lawmakers must approve the $37.4 billion spending proposal by July 1, when the new fiscal year begins. Democrats, who control the Legislature, showed limited enthusiasm for Murphy’s plan, suggesting they would review it carefully. Republicans blasted the package for the tax hikes involved.
When it comes to healthcare, the governor’s plan calls for spending more than $700 million on hospital aid and an additional $100 million to address opioid addiction, which contributed to nearly 2,000 deaths last year. He also included $7.5 million to boost funding for Planned Parenthood and other community clinics to support women’s and family healthcare — money that Christie declined to include during the eight years he was governor.
In addition, Murphy called for the following budget increases for next fiscal year:
Murphy also called for cuts to a number of Christie-era initiatives, including trimming more than $102 million from opioid addiction programs. Other reductions include: