Gov. Phil Murphy is expected to sign the state’s $38.7 billion 2020 budget at a Sunday news conference, just before the July 1 deadline to avoid a government shutdown, but whether he will veto specific elements of the budget as he has threatened is unknown.
“There’s been a little too much drama for me on this budget,” said Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, D-Atlantic. “Legislators gave him a budget 10 days ago. There’s probably 95% of what the governor asked for in the budget.”
Senate President Steve Sweeney said Thursday he is bewildered by Murphy’s refusal to sit down and negotiate with lawmakers over the past 10 days.
“He made a statement everything is on the table,” said Assemblyman John Armato, D-Atlantic. “We have to just sit and wait. It’s his prerogative.”
At potential risk are an additional $4.5 million in funding for Stockton University and $7.5 million for Montclair State University. The two get the lowest amounts of state aid per student of all public higher education institutions in the state.
Stockton President Harvey Kesselman has said the extra funding is needed for the campus to move ahead with plans to expand in Atlantic City.
The Legislature can vote to try to override line-item vetoes any time until the end of the session in December, a spokesman for Sweeney said Friday.
Murphy said Thursday there won’t be a government shutdown, and state parks and beaches will be open for the run-up to the Fourth of July.
The Democrat governor’s version of the budget and the Democrat-dominated Legislature’s version are in sync on most big items, such as a $3.8 billion public pension payment, nearly $15 billion for education and more funding for NJ Transit.
Murphy asked for $25 million more for NJ Transit, and the Legislature put in $75 million more.
But the lawmakers did not give him the tax increase on income above $1 million he badly wanted. It also cut the amount of money he designated for free community college and eliminated increases in gun permit fees and taxes on opioid manufacturers.
New Jersey’s constitution requires a balanced budget be in place by July 1.
Lawmakers added some $100 million in additional items to the budget across a range of programs. Murphy can use a line-item veto to eliminate some of those, but cannot add anything to the budget.
Murphy campaigned on raising the top marginal tax rate from 8.97% to 10.75% on incomes over $1 million, and lawmakers voted for such an increase five times under Republican Gov. Chris Christie.
Now, legislators say the state’s revenues have evened out, citing a $1.4 billion surplus, and no tax increase is needed.
Stockton and Montclair are greatly underfunded compared to other higher education institutions, Sweeney said in a recent Press editorial board meeting. That’s why legislators included an extra $4.5 million for Stockton and $7.5 million for Montclair in the budget, Sweeney said.
Kesselman has said the plan to expand its Atlantic City campus could only work with more state aid, especially as the college receives the second-lowest amount of aid per student of all the state colleges at $1,995. The state average is $3,570 per student.
Montclair’s level of aid is lowest in the state at $1,912 per student.
The second phase of Stockton’s Atlantic City campus, which already received approval from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, will be a six-story, $64 million residential complex across from O’Donnell Park. The building will have space for 405 beds, helping the college meet its expansion goal of more than 10,000 students by next fall.
Stockton is in negotiations with the Atlantic City Development Corp., which is developing the project.
AC Devco is expected to request a loan of $10 million from the CRDA to help with funding for the expansion. It expects to break ground in September and finish by summer 2021.
Murphy and lawmakers narrowly avoided a shutdown last year when they reached a deal that raised taxes on those making more than $5 million as well as on corporations.
The Associated Press and Staff Writer Claire Lowe contributed to this report.