TRENTON, N.J. – During today’s Assembly budget committee hearing with state Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio, Republicans asked multiple questions that did not receive direct answers. They say it is an indication that administration’s lack of transparency comes from a lack of information.
“The administration was not confident in their revenue estimates,” said Assemblyman Hal Wirths (R-Sussex), the GOP budget officer. “Even the Office of Legislative Services said there is a large margin of error and that everything is incredibly uncertain. It seems as though the administration is unprepared and hoping for the best.”
Both the OLS and the Treasury Department would not commit to their estimates. The OLS estimates that revenues will be nearly $500 million higher than the Murphy administration’s projections, but the nonpartisan office also stated that June is the second best month for sales tax revenue because of tourism, which may be held back by the stay-at-home order.
“I asked some very simple questions about what to expect about the state recovery, and the response seemed to be that treasury really didn’t know,” said Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz (R-Union). “When the treasurer was directly asked if there was a contingency plan, there was none. Governor Murphy always talks about data, but when push comes to shove it doesn’t seem like his administration has much to share.”
Muoio indicated tax hikes will not be considered for the rest of this fiscal year, but will be on the table for the fiscal year 2021 budget expected to be delivered by Gov. Phil Murphy August 25. If revenue estimates are too high, the state would have to make further cuts.
“There is a large chance that heavily indebted corporations will ask for their money back,” said Assemblyman Rob Clifton (R-Monmouth). “I was told that wasn’t considered in the Treasury Department’s estimates because they didn’t know how much taxes have been overpaid. The administration needs to be more responsible because that could devastate revenue and put us back to square one.”
The department noted that corporations have overpaid taxes in monthly revenue updates throughout the fiscal year. The state revenue report released on May 22 noted that the overpayments loom over corporation business tax revenues.
“Today proved that Governor Murphy’s policies broke the back of the curve, but also broke the back of the state and our constituents,” said Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso (R-Monmouth). “It was disappointing to hear constant blaming of the prior administration for the state’s problems, but champion record pension payments that are only happening because of the prior administration. There doesn’t seem to be any accountability.”