It’s Groundhog Day in New Jersey! Murphy keeps repeating himself on budget and government shutdown.

Posted Jun 24, 2019

It’s Groundhog Day in the Garden State.

With only six days left before the deadline for a state budget to be enacted in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday once again did not say publicly what he plans to do with the $38.7 billion state government spending plan that lawmakers sent him last week.

"All options are on the table,” Murphy said during an unrelated news conference at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark.

The governor must really like putting things on that table. He said the same thing on Friday. And last Wednesday, just before the state Legislature — controlled by fellow Democrats — defied him and passed a budget without his proposal for a millionaires tax.

The governor has until June 30 to sign the budget, veto it in part or in whole, or do nothing. The latter two options could lead to him shutting down the state government — which could close state parks and beaches, shutter courts and DMVs, and leave thousands of state workers furloughed starting July 1.

Murphy said Monday his administration met with his Cabinet last week to inform state agencies to prepare for a shutdown. But he quickly added: “That’s a normal course of business.”

”We have a whole range of options and we have a fair amount of clock left,” Murphy said. “To be determined.”

The governor did hint once again that he may choose to veto millions of dollars in spending that lawmakers added — which he referred to as “pork” last week. He also hinted he may not certify revenue projections that lawmakers laid out, saying they are based on “fuzzy" math.

Murphy said his staff continues to meet with lawmakers’ staff, though they haven’t made progress in negotiations.

“We haven’t closed any of the gaps yet,” he said. “Again, thankful that the budget that we got back from the legislature included an overwhelming amount of our priorities, and I can’t say that more strongly. We are not there in terms of our ability to button down their revenues and my being able to certify those revenues.”

State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, New Jersey’s top state lawmaker, told NJ Advance Media on Monday that legislative leaders “are available” if Murphy wants to meet about the budget.

“But we already sent him a budget,” Sweeney, D-Gloucester, added.

Meanwhile, June 30 is also the date that New Jersey’s embattled corporate tax incentive program is set to expire. And there isn’t much clarity on what may happen to it.

The Legislature voted last week to approve a seven-month extension on the multi-billion-program designed to help attract and keep businesses in New Jersey through tax credits.

But Murphy on Monday once again vowed to veto the “short-sighted” legislation, though he did not say when. He has 45 days since last Thursday, when lawmakers passed the bill, to take action.

Murphy said he has not vetoed the bill yet because “there’s an opportunity between now and June 30 to get this right.”

The governor is also pushing his own plan to reform the program, which includes proposals to cap the amount of tax breaks doled out at $400 million a year and to focus on bringing startups to the state.

“This begs the question: Who’s side are you on?" Murphy asked. “I’m on the side of the taxpayers, communities, and entrepreneurs. I’m not on the side of a broken and rigged system designed by special interests for special interests. Our current system is indefensible."

If he and lawmakers can’t reach a compromise, the state will have no incentive program come July 1.

The task force investigating the program will hold its next hearing July 9. Meanwhile, a separate committee put together by the Legislature plans to examine the program.

But state Sen. Richard Codey, a Murphy ally and former governor, compared that to President Donald Trump investigating Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

That’s because the task force has been examining whether companies tied to South Jersey Democratic power broker George Norcross, a Sweeney ally, misused incentives.

A group of activists recently filed an ethics complaint alleging five of the seven lawmakers on the panel have ties to Norcross.

Codey, himself a former governor, also had some colorful praise for Murphy.

“I want to congratulate him for having the onions to do what he’s doing and stand up, because I know what happens when you stand up,” the veteran lawmaker said.

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