(The Center Square) – Lawmakers in New Jersey are poised to vote on a $46.4 billion fiscal 2022 budget on Thursday, one that spends roughly $4.3 billion more than the state anticipates receiving in revenues.
Lawmakers end fiscal 2021 with a $10.1 billion “surplus,” partly because of higher-than-anticipated revenues. The budget assumes nearly $42.1 billion in revenues.
The budget is higher than the $44.8 billion spending plan Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, proposed in February and represents a roughly 15% increase from last year.
The “budget lays the foundation for a more affordable New Jersey where everyone has the opportunity to prosper from young adulthood well into retirement,” Murphy said in a news release. “We’re providing the resources to help parents save to send their children to college, help graduates get a fresh start in life without the crushing burden of student loans, and help seniors age in place by guaranteeing more of their hard-earned retirement income.”
The budget, which lawmakers must approve by June 30, includes $3.7 billion for its Debt Defeasance Fund and a $6.9 billion payment for the state’s pension system.
“There is much to like and much to be wary of with this budget agreement,” New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA) Vice President of Government Affairs Christopher Emigholz said in a statement. “… What is most concerning about this budget, however, is the continuation of the state’s extravagant spending. Our structural imbalance has gone from $4 billion in more spending than revenues in Governor Murphy’s originally proposed budget to $4.3 billion in this bill.
“As both houses consider their votes tomorrow, it is imperative they recognize the opportunity before them,” Emigholz added. “With our great surplus – much of it derived from more than $4 billion in unnecessary borrowing last September – New Jersey has a rare chance to stop crushing our residents and businesses with tax increases and to reverse our affordability crisis.”
Additionally, Republicans blasted the lack of transparency on the budget process.
“Nobody, not legislators voting on the bills nor the public that will be impacted, had any legitimate opportunity to review the legislation, understand it, or make suggestions for improvement,” state Sen. Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, said in a news release.
“This entire budget process has been the most shameful, willful disregard for government transparency that Trenton has ever seen,” O’Scanlon added. “Unfortunately, Governor Murphy and the Democrats currently in charge of the State House are unlikely to do anything to fix this broken process. Hell, they created it.”