There is no doubt that Governor Phil Murphy’s heart is in the right place. He clearly is passionate about helping those who have the least and need the most. For example, commuters who are dependent upon currently undependable NJ Transit service. A much-needed Gateway Tunnel to reduce traffic congestion going into New York for these same hundreds of thousands of commuters. (P.S. President Donald Trump has told New York and New Jersey to take a hike if they expect any federal funding for this much-needed project.)
Governor Murphy is also passionate about helping potential students who want to go to community college, but can’t afford it. Urban school children who have received less state aid than the legal state education funding formula requires. Kids who should be in Pre-K, but again, whose parents are unable to afford it. Workers making just over $8 an hour, who would love to make the $15 minimum wage in a state that has become simply unaffordable for so many. And, of course, public employees who worry every day about whether their pension will be there when they retire after having put in so many years of valuable service to the people of this state.
Governor Murphy’s heart is not the problem. It is clearly in the right place. But as he delivered his historic first budget address this week, one problem becomes abundantly clear. Where exactly will the money come from to pay for these and other items on Governor Murphy’s very “progressive” agenda?
Should New Jersey increase taxes on those who earn over $1 million? What about a minor uptick in the sales tax? And how about legalizing marijuana, which would bring in much-needed revenue to our state? These are just some of the ideas Governor Murphy has proposed to pay for what he believes should be New Jersey’s priorities in this budget. Clearly there is some resistance in the legislature to these revenue generators, even among some Democrats who I am confident believe in virtually everything Governor Murphy proposes to do to help New Jersey residents.
But this is where the really hard choices have to be made. If these things truly matter, then without finding the dollars to pay for them, they become just ideas that go nowhere. If that happens, it would be a shame. But then again, can we ask those who have more to simply pay more? Should we legalize marijuana in part because it brings in big bucks? As for the sales tax, I’m still wondering why Democrats cut it by a tiny fraction in order to justify a much-needed gas tax to keep our roads and bridges safe (imagine how relevant that is right now given the horrific pedestrian bridge collapse in Miami.)
Finally, if the items on the Murphy agenda, which I think are laudable, matter most, then what gets cut from other programs and departments in state government? If the answer is nothing because “everything matters”, I then say that “nothing matters”, because whether it is a family, a business or state government, if we can’t say what matters most, and be willing to pay for it, then our words are empty. We are about to find out over the next three months who cares most about what, and about whom, in our state. That’s right, New Jersey’s state budget must be balanced and locked in by midnight June 30th. Unlike the Federal government, we can’t spend money we don’t have.
This is a painful reality check for all of us in New Jersey, but especially for our new Governor, Phil Murphy, who I think has a heart of gold, but the question is, do we have the gold to pay for it?
Of Governor Murphy’s very laudable agenda items, which should go on the top of the list and why? Write to me at SteveAdubato@gmail.com