From the Star Ledger:
Uh-oh. The governor’s got a new cliche.
It’s “rosy scenario,” and Phil Murphy repeated it several times last week as he fought with his fellow Democrats over the state budget that has to be enacted a week from now.
Murphy meant the term to apply to the scenario offered up by state Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin in their budget for Fiscal 2019. That passed both houses Thursday.
But I couldn’t help applying that to Murphy’s own plans for our fiscal future.
I am blessed – or perhaps I should say cursed – with a cash register in my head that rings up the cost of promises as a politician utters them.
In the case of Murphy, the sum is staggering for the programs he has promised to implement by the end of his first term. Universal pre-K education: More than $1 billion a year. Tuition-free community college: More than $600 million. Fully funding our K-12 state aid formula: Another billion.
And that’s on top of a pension contribution that grows by $700 million a year but is still drastically underfunded even at that rate. Retiree health benefits are also soaring.
Murphy proposes $1.7 billion in new taxes in his version of the budget for Fiscal 2019, which begins July 1. But that’s barely enough to pay current bills, never mind the tab for new programs.
At the governor’s press conference on Thursday, I asked him about that.
“We’re talking about $4 billion in new spending in the next four years,” I said. “Where are we gonna find the revenue for that in a non-rosy scenario?”
“We have a lot of opportunity to grow this economy,” he answered.
I persisted. “Can we get $4 billion in new revenue in four years?”
“With very reasonable growth assumptions, next year looks pretty darn good,” he said.