Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday outlined a $53.1 billion budget that supports what he calls the “Next New Jersey” as the state faces the prospect of a recession after recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Loaded with billions to cut another round of rebate checks to taxpayers, stockpile savings and pay down debt, the spending plan is once again the biggest in state history, but does not include new taxes or fare increases for NJ Transit riders. It doesn’t include any notable new programs, either, but instead builds on the foundation the Democratic governor laid in budgets past with an eye on what he called affordability, responsibility and opportunity.
“This entire budget is purpose-built to help you find your place in the Next New Jersey by securing your place in the New Jersey of right now,” Murphy said in a roughly 50-minute speech. “Indeed, this is a budget focused on the pocketbooks of our families.”
Murphy’s annual address kicks off months of negotiations with the Democratic-led Legislature that inevitably will lead to changes and late deal-making. Last year, for example, lawmakers added millions in pet projects to Murphy’s proposed $48.9 billion budget, bringing the total to $50.6 billion when he signed it in June.
With all 120 seats in the Legislature on the ballot in November — the first election since Democrats lost several seats in a surprisingly strong Republican cycle in 2021 — it wouldn’t be surprising to see another year of padded spending to arm incumbents with arguments for reelection.
And Democrats already have one perk to show off to voters: the ANCHOR property tax rebate checks hitting mailboxes this spring. That program, first launched last year, delivers up to $1,500 to about 1.5 million homeowners and renters in an attempt to soften the blow of the state’s nation-leading property taxes.
Murphy is proposing to continue that program for another year at a cost of $2 billion.
Murphy also wants to double the state’s child tax credit from $500 to $1,000 for each child younger than five years old. And for seniors, he wants to expand the Senior Freeze property tax reimbursement program to people with incomes up to $150,000. Last year, the income limit was $100,000.