TRENTON, N.J. – At a hearing Tuesday approving a list of spending items from federal funds and a debt prevention program popped by the Murphy administration the day before Thanksgiving, Assemblyman Hal Wirths blasted the lack of explanation as too little to justify the spending. Unexpectedly and unusually, representatives from the treasury department didn’t attend the meeting.
“I just don’t see how we can proceed,” Wirths (R-Sussex), the GOP budget officer, said during the hearing. “This whole thing has been in the dark, and now that Treasury has not shown up I think as outrageous as this was before, it has become more outrageous. What are they trying to hide?”
Wirths followed up on the incomplete agenda, which Democrat members said were legislative wants. Those items are typically known as pork during the budget process. He called for a long-term, comprehensive plan to be presented by the administration; if not for good governance, then transparency.
“There is nothing careful, responsible or evidently fiscally sound from the looks of it,” Wirths said after the hearing. “The Murphy administration has never put forth a long-term plan for the funds, and barely provided any explanation for how the entities getting money will use it. They treat spending not as a process, but as a foregone conclusion. The administration didn’t even bother to show up to the meeting, which I’m not sure has ever happened.”
Federal funds and the debt prevention program have been available for over six months, and legislative Republicans sent letters in June proposing uses for the funds, including increasing assistance for renters, fully updating the unemployment and motor vehicle commission systems, and preventing a tax hike on small businesses that managed to survive Gov. Phil’s Murphy’s economic shutdown.
“Democrats have taken a nothing-to-see-here approach to transparency throughout this process,” continued Wirths. “They frankly don’t care what anyone else thinks, so they don’t provide detailed explanations to the public because, to them, the public is irrelevant and potential concerns are white noise.”
The $250 million tax hike on employers will eat into the assistance previously provided from federal funds, while funding to help struggling renters apply for assistance will be more than doubled because administrative expenses were greater than expected. Republicans previously called for an additional $500 million to prevent an eviction crisis.
“For nearly two years we have watched Murphy sit on federal funds while people and businesses desperately needed financial help. The help has always been too little, too late without much explanation at all. He must be obstinate, and Democrats are too willing to go along with it.”