New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy

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NJ's Gov. Murphy says there won't be a state government shutdown

June 27, 2019 - 6:51 pm

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- State parks and beaches will be open for the run-up to the Fourth of July holiday, and there won't be a state government shutdown, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said Thursday.

Murphy announced his decision to enact the budget that lawmakers sent him at a news conference at Secaucus' train station. He said he's still reviewing the $38.7 billion plan, but promised to enact it before Sunday's deadline. New Jersey's constitution requires a balanced budget be in place by July 1.

"I cannot and will not subject our residents to the inconveniences they would suffer under a shutdown,'' Murphy said.

Murphy's decision comes after he spent the week railing against the Democrat-led Legislature for not including several of his key priorities, like a hike in the income tax on people making over $1 million, more money for community colleges and an increase in gun permit fees.

Despite asking legislators ``whose side are you on'' for much of the week, the plan they sent him mirrors much of what Murphy proposed in March.

The budget includes a nearly $4 billion public pension payment that Murphy sought, nearly $15 billion for education and an additional $50 million beyond what he sought for New Jersey Transit.

It also deposits $1.4 billion into the surplus.

Murphy said Thursday he hasn't yet taken action on the budget because he's still going through it. He has hinted he could use his line-item veto on some spending, but hasn't specified what.

Lawmakers added some $100 million in additional items to the budget, across a range of programs. Murphy can strip those out, though he cannot add anything into the budget.

Lawmakers have hinted they could try to override any of Murphy's potential line-item vetoes, though it's unclear that there would be enough support for what would be the first override in decades.

Senate President Steve Sweeney said Thursday he wants to wait to see what the governor does before committing to a veto override.

Despite complete Democratic control of state government, this year's budget was contentious, especially over the question of higher taxes for the wealthy.

Murphy campaigned on raising the top marginal rate from 8.97% to 10.75% on incomes over $1 million, and lawmakers voted for such an increase five times under Republican Chris Christie.

They say now, though, that the state's revenues have evened out, and that's reflected in the $1.4 billion surplus.

Sweeney also said Thursday that Murphy's push for higher taxes stemmed from his liberal base and argued that the state isn't as left-leaning as Murphy believes. He took a swipe at Murphy, who before serving as Barack Obama's ambassador to Germany was an executive on Wall Street.

"We're willing to work with him and negotiate with him, but this isn't Goldman Sachs and you don't order people to do things,'' Sweeney said.

Murphy has said the higher revenue would help insulate the budget in case of any future downturn and enable the state to fulfill its constitutional obligations to finance pensions and education.

The last state government shutdown came in 2017, when Christie and Democratic legislative leaders failed to agree on a budget.

The shutdown ended after photos of Christie sitting on Island Beach State Park with his family emerged. The park was closed because of the shutdown, but the state operates a residence for the governor there. Christie had promised his family a trip to the beachfront home ahead of the Independence Day holiday.

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.