TRENTON, N.J. – The four Republican members of the Assembly Budget Committee took the Murphy administration to task for misrepresenting its actions and projections during a hearing Thursday with the Treasury Department.
Assemblyman Hal Wirths, the Republican budget officer, illustrated how the administration is using borrowed funds to create a surplus, despite Murphy and Treasurer Elizabeth Muoio’s claims the two were not connected.
“If there was no borrowing in this budget, would there be a surplus?” asked Wirths (R-Sussex).
The administration at first said it was part of the overall revenue picture, but when pressed admitted that without the borrowing cuts, such as the surplus, would have to be made.
Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz questioned cutting charity care, mental health services, and raising taxes on health care. She said that by increasing health care costs during a health crisis that the administration was making it harder to provide care.
“You shouldn’t be expanding other programs while cutting care to people who currently need it,” said Munoz (R-Union). “The health care taxes, particularly those on prescription pain medication, are like sin taxes. It isn’t a sin to be sick.”
Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso questioned the need to raise the gas tax, choosing to spend money on baby bonds instead of K-12 education, and providing pay raises for public employees.
“It’s quite upsetting to hear the state treasurer dismiss the non-partisan Office of Legislative Service, first in the enormous difference in revenue then in its decision to raise the gas tax to nearly twice of what is necessary,” said DiMaso (R-Monmouth). “It begs the question: when the governor is up for re-election next year will they cut the gas tax and claim victory on better revenue?”
Assemblyman Rob Clifton asked for information that he was promised at hearings in May on overpayment claims by businesses, something the treasury has warned about in revenue reports but has not provided data.
“Their lack of information is the perfect example of everything this administration does,” said Clifton (R-Monmouth). “They don’t frankly care about anything or anybody unless it fits their political interest. They don’t even care to look into something Treasury identified as a threat to state revenue because it doesn’t fit their overall narrative that businesses need to be taxed more.”