Gov. Phil Murphy Signs Sports Betting Bill

Gov. Phil Murphy

Murphy On N.J. Budget: 'The Middle Class Is Now Back At The Head Of The Class'

July 03, 2018 - 2:36 pm

TRENTON, N.J. (WCBS 880/AP) -- As we head into the Fourth of July holiday, beaches and parks across New Jersey are open – after Gov. Phil Murphy and state legislative leaders reached an 11th-hour deal on a new state budget this past weekend.

Murphy and the Democratic legislative leaders reached a deal Saturday night on a $37.4 billion budget that hikes taxes on the wealthy and some businesses and averts the state's second consecutive government shutdown.

Murphy wanted a millionaires’ tax hike, while legislators wanted a tax hike on high-earning businesses.

The budget deal will raise income taxes on people making $5 million and above to 10.75 percent from 8.97 percent, and will raise business taxes by an average of 2 percentage points over four years. The current rate is 9 percent. The sales tax is staying where it is.

Thus, Murphy told WCBS 880’s Steve Scott, both sides got what they wanted.

“We got the millionaires’ tax, which we had to get, because we’re digging out of eight years where the middle class was ravaged in our state and the wealthiest among us did fine. We needed to reset that. So big investment into the middle class; tax fairness – at the end of the day, we ended up, I think, at a good place,” he said.

Murphy line-item vetoed language in the budget that would have authorized a 5-cent fee for single-use plastic bags. He said the proposal has to be thought out further.

“It’s a complicated piece. It’s got some elements we like. It’s got some concerns. So we said: ‘You know what? Let’s take it out of the budget,’” he said. “You can’t score anything in a budget unless you have agreed to do it. And then we have another 40 or so days to try to figure out what to, so to be determined.”

If a budget deal had not been reached by midnight Saturday night, the state would have faced a government shutdown, which would have led to public parks and beaches, as well as the Motor Vehicle Commission, closing. Racetracks would've also closed.

Last year, Republican Gov. Chris Christie and the Democrat-controlled Legislature failed to agree on a budget and state government was shuttered for three days. It ended after photos of Christie sitting on a public beach that was closed because of the shutdown created a national stir.

But this year, amid a steamy 4th of July holiday week, the Jersey Shore beaches will be open – and Murphy said tourism will be booming.

“The shore economy, I think, is a $44 billion economy. It’s a gem. It’s incredibly important to the livelihoods of so many. It’s obviously one of the great tourist meccas in the United States, never mind in our state,” Murphy said as he spoke to Scott from the Jersey Shore himself. “So hot steamy weather, state is open for business – Jersey Shore on the 4th of July doesn’t get any better than that.”

In reaching the budget deal, Murphy said the most important process was finding common ground with the legislators. He said he ended up getting 99 percent of what he wanted.

“And when I say, ‘What we wanted,’ I don’t mean who’s a winner and who loses. When I say, ‘What we wanted,’ I mean the middle class in this state,” Murphy said. “As I mentioned, we’ve been digging out of an eight-year run where the middle class was hollowed out. This is a huge investment in K through 12, pre-K expansion, college affordability, NJ TRANSIT – if you stop right there, this is a statement that says, you know what? The middle class is now back at the head of the class in New Jersey.”

Meanwhile, a busy travel week is in progress, and crude oil prices are up to $75 a barrel with gas prices 60 percent a gallon higher than last year. When Scott asked Murphy if it might be an option to temporarily suspend or reduce the 23-cent gas tax that went into effect in 2016, Murphy said

“The Transportation Trust Fund – which, by the way, has been a bipartisan objective for decades; started under one of my predecessors, Governor Kean – was basically bankrupted, because the last administration just kept kicking that can down the road,” he said. “So that gas tax increase was directed directly into fixing our roads and bridges and infrastructure. When you’re the fourth smallest state in the nation and the densest state in the nation, as we are, and we sit beside the largest market in the world in New York and one of the largest in the country in Philadelphia, roads, bridges, rails tunnels – they’ve got to work. It’s the lifeblood of the state. And that’s where that money is going.”

He said with the new revenue in the Transportation Trust Fund, the state is making tangible progress.

“Roads are getting better. Projects are finally being unleashed. And separate from that, as I mentioned earlier, we made a historic tripling of an investment in NJ TRANSIT so that rail and bus realities in our state, which have gotten so unreliable, will get finally at long last to a better place,” he said.

On the first day of sports betting in New Jersey, Murphy put down $20 for Germany to win the World Cup at Monmouth Park for one of the very first bets. Germany ended up being eliminated from the World Cup in Russia after losses to Mexico and South Korea and a lone win over Sweden.

But Murphy said regardless of his own bet, sports betting has already proven beneficial.

“Sports betting’s already proving to be a game changer, by the way, in New Jersey, at the tracks and casinos,” he said.

Murphy noted that his other first-ever bet was for the New Jersey Devils to win the Stanley Cup.

“I’ve still got one of my bets alive, and I’m confident on that one,” he said.

(© 2018 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)