Gov. Phil Murphy continues to review the $38.7 billion state budget for fiscal year 2020 that lawmakers approved and sent him last week but he’s made it clear he is not happy the proposed spending plan does not include a tax increase for millionaires.

What remains unclear is whether Murphy will turn thumbs down on the entire budget and cause a government shutdown at the end of the week.

In the meantime, his campaign for a millionaires' tax continues to air TV commercials, and a group he is believed to be backing financially, called New Direction New Jersey has been engaged in an email campaign, trying to encourage state residents to contact legislators and tell them they support the governor’s call for a millionaires tax hike and reject the “no tax increase” stance of state Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D- Middlesex.

When Murphy was asked if he thinks appealing to the public in this fashion might cause more friction with the June 30th budget deadline fast approaching, Murphy said “I don’t care about rubbing anyone the wrong way."

"There’s an inside-the-Trenton bubble reality where it’s been business as usual, kicking the can down the road for decades.”

Murphy said he got elected to change the way Trenton does business and polls have shown that 7 in 10 Garden State residents support a millionaire’s tax increase.

“We’ll be talking about tax fairness no matter where we come out, I promise you, on July 1, Sept. 1, Dec. 1 and on into the future till we crack the back.”

Ben Dworkin, the director of the Rowan University Institute for Public Policy and Citizenship, said we have had other New Jersey governors, including Chris Christie and Tom Kean, who made commercials to promote the state, or a particular issue like education or the war against opioid addiction. But the effort we’re seeing by Murphy to engage the public in the millionaire’s tax issue is unique.

“Some folks in leadership and other legislators might be offended and upset and feel challenged by this advertising, but I think that means it’s having its desired effect, the Governor wants to show that he’s ready to play hardball.”

He pointed out while the governor’s millionaire’s tax commercials are direct and hard-hitting, “they aren’t mean, they aren’t attacking, they’re simply reaching out to the public saying you need to support this, call your legislator to do it.”

Dworkin said we don’t know that Murphy is financially supporting New Direction New Jersey because the organization has not disclosed its donors. The group had announced it was going to do so, but then decided against it. The Legislature last week forced Murphy to sign a bill that would require so-called "dark money" groups to reveal their major donors.

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