Maybe Murphy Didn’t Lose So Big in the Budget Battle After All
Before ratifying a new state spending a plan last Sunday and avoiding a government shutdown, Gov. Phil Murphy had insisted the Legislature agree to a tax increase for millionaires.
He didn’t get it, but signed the budget anyway, slashing some spending as he went through his line-item veto authority.
Some have suggested Murphy came out on the losing end — but Ben Dworkin, the director of the Rowan University Institute for Public Policy & Citizenship, disagrees.
“Certainly the governor, while he didn’t get the millionaires tax he wanted, got more than 90 percent of everything else he wanted," Dworkin said.
Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. points out “the governor got most of what he had initially proposed in spending to begin with — this was in many ways the budget that he had proposed.”
Murray said while the governor didn’t get the millionaires tax hike, state Senate President Steve Sweeney didn’t get state worker pension and benefit reforms he was looking for.
But for the most part, “the budget is actually the budget that Democrats, both the governor and state legislators actually want," Murray said.
And Dworkin said the governor actually wound up getting a benefit he wasn’t expecting.
“The Legislature put more money into NJ Transit than the Governor originally wanted, which is only going to help the governor popularity if NJTransit uses that money to avoid shutdowns and delays," he said.
Dworkin noted the Governor’s relationship with the legislative leadership is strained, but it’s been like this since Murphy was sworn into office in January of 2018.
Dworkin said Murphy does not have a long line of supporters in the Assembly and state Senate, so he can’t force through programs that don’t have the support of the legislative leadership — but that’s only 5 to 10% of the big issues in the state.
“On 90% of the issues these folks all agree, and therefore you’re going to see funding of the governor’s priorities," Dworkin said.
He added the governor should actually feel quite pleased “because he’s moving the state in a direction that he wants after eight years of Chris Christie, in a much more progressive way," Dworkin said.
The rallies Murphy has been holding in favor of a millionaires tax hike may not sway legislative leaders, “but it’s certainly a way to keep the issue alive, to keep the governor’s popularity high, certainly for a politician in New Jersey," Dworkin said.
A recent Rutgers-Eagleton poll indicated 72% of the public is in favor of the idea of raising taxes for millionaires in New Jersey
Murray said the governor has fallen short of convincing lawmakers a millionaires tax hike is really necessary “so these rallies seem to be much more about just bolstering the liberal wing of the party who’s been behind him all along.”
"The governor’s press conferences and these rallies he’s been having in effect are boosting his own persona as well," Dworkin said.