New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy laid out a new state budget Tuesday for a truncated fiscal year that starts in October and ends in June 2021. He asked lawmakers to agree with him on spending nearly $32.4 billion for those months. He wants to raise taxes by $1 billion, notably calling once again for higher income tax rates on millionaires. And Murphy said the state should borrow $4 billion to deal with its response to the coronavirus pandemic. Here are highlights of what Murphy said Tuesday on issues related to the COVID crisis and on the budget’s key points:
Aid for COVID-19 response
“We are embarking on a $155 million investment in our hard-hit long-term care facilities, including a responsible program for testing of staff, greater workforce support and wage increases for caregivers, and critical infection-control practices — an investment that would include tens of millions of dollars in federal matching funds. We are supporting our colleges and universities with $150 million to help defray the costs they have incurred in responding to this pandemic, and to ensure that high-quality learning and rich engagement are not sacrificed.
“And, we are committing over $50 million to our public and non-public schools to help bridge the digital divide. And, we have put more than $100 million directly into our Main Street small businesses through grants and loans, and into capital investment guarantees for nascent start-ups. We’ve put relief funds forward to help them with rent, to purchase PPE, and develop safe reopening plans.”
“We must also recognize that, for a majority of our students, remote learning will be part of their day — whether in-part or in-full. And, with this will come new burdens on parents who don’t have the ability, or privilege, to provide adequate supervision during times of remote study. So, this budget comes with a promise to these families and students. We will invest up to $250 million to support our schools in opening more fully for these students… to provide subsidies to child-care centers so that more of them can reopen …and to expand direct subsidies to families so more of them can afford child care.”
“We will also ensure that our democracy is stronger and more resilient for the years ahead, with a $5 million investment to start us on the road to a long-term commitment to early voting, so every citizen can be sure that their voice is heard.”
Preparing for a COVID second wave
“This budget envisions a closing surplus of more than $2.2 billion — a much-needed cushion against revenue shocks from a second wave. This surplus is not a luxury. It is a product of lessons learned: Think ahead, be prepared. And because we are thinking ahead, and with the hard work of the Department of Health, State Police, and Offices of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, we have undertaken the process of building a strong state strategic stockpile of personal protective equipment — masks and gowns and gloves — to backstop our health care systems and first responders.
“We have already placed more than 10 million pieces of PPE in our stockpile, with more than 88 million more pieces ordered and on their way. And, our stockpile also contains more than 1,400 ventilators — with another 500 on the way, and 600 more already in our hospitals — to give the capacity we need to ensure our doctors and nurses have the equipment they will need to protect and save lives.”
“I would urge those who would pay this tax to see it this way — we are asking you to sacrifice pennies on your top dollar to ensure that every New Jerseyan has the same opportunity to succeed that you did. You have the wherewithal that millions of families don’t at this extraordinary time in our shared history.”
“Inspired by the trailblazing work of Sen. Cory Booker at the federal level, I propose today that New Jersey provide a “baby bond” — a $1,000 deposit into an account for every child born in 2021 to a family making up to $131,000 per year. This is an idea that would benefit three out of every four children born in our state. This is a place where New Jersey will lead, with the first statewide program of its kind. As this child grows, so, too, will the value of this bond — to help pay for college, to help make a down payment on a home, or to help start a small business.”