As lawmakers prepare for their Summer break after passing a $50.6 billion state budget, the Democratic leadership was crowing about tax relief and fee holidays included in the record high spending plan.
Nearly $1.7 billion in additional spending was ladled into the $40 billion dollar spending plan submitted by Gov. Phil Murphy in February, yet the spending plan is lacking in the kind of immediate relief many New Jersey families desperately need.
The cornerstone of the budget is the ANCHOR property tax relief plan, which will offer rebates up to $1,500 to most property tax payers. That relief, however, wont come in the form of direct payments. It will be a ‘credit’ on your property tax bill, and won’t be seen until March.
Tax-free school shopping and waived fees on marriage license and driver license renewals are also not likely to provide meaningful savings in the face of rising inflation and near-record gas prices.
Awash in federal stimulus money and unexpectedly high tax collections, Democratic lawmakers refused to consider any bills that offer immediate relief.
Half a dozen measures that would provide relief from gas prices have languished at the bottom of the stack of bills that were considered. No action was taken on any of them, nor is any scheduled.
Even with the urgings of President Joe Biden that state’s temporarily suspend gas taxes, Senate President Nick Scutari, D-Union, and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Woodbridge, have not even scheduled hearings on any gas related relief bills.
Suspension of New Jersey’s gas tax combined with the federal tax holiday would save drivers nearly 60 cents per gallon of gas.
Republicans had been pressing for direct rebates or stimulus payments up to $1,500 to help with rising inflation. Democrats blocked every single bill.
Murphy has also largely been silent on any immediate relief measures, instead focusing on key progressive issues like gun control and abortion rights.
California, whose policies Murphy has sometimes mirrored, passed a massive $12 billion stimulus plan that will provide direct payments up to $1,000 to residents making up to $500,00 per year.
With a potential recession looming, lawmakers did wisely set aside billions in surplus revenues to cover future shortfalls. However, much of that surplus could be needed to sustain the record spending in this budget for the next year.
Beyond the talking points and political posturing of both Democrats and Republicans, when most New Jerseyans look at the biggest budget in state history, they will be hard pressed to find any of that money providing any meaningful relief from crushing economic conditions right now.
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