This budget season the state is flush with cash from federal aid and unexpectedly robust tax collections. It’s also an election year and polls show Gov. Phil Murphy with favorable performance reviews from voters and a healthy lead over his opponent. With a budget deadline of July 1, the final budget negotiations have been underway.
Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester), vice-chair of the Assembly Budget committee, is on board with a $46 billion spending plan that checks almost every Democratic priority. “This budget reflects big investments in things we think will touch people. We think it’ll help reduce taxes in certain circumstances so we’re trying to make it work as effectively as possible but we’re also looking down the road because everyone knows this will not be the last budget,” Burzichelli said.
But some lawmakers say those billion-dollar decisions are being rushed through, behind closed doors. Sen. Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth), said, “It’s astounding, it’s stunning, what’s going on with this budget — the billions and billions of dollars that are being spent behind closed doors; the hundreds of millions, probably billions, in pork; the slush funds that are created with very little oversight. I mean, it’s all this extra money. The windfall because we overtaxed last year will be squandered. The federal aid — we really don’t know how the hell that’s going to be spent.”