Governor Phil Murphy and the legislature have a lot to deliver on if For The Many NJ will be satisfied with the 2022 state budget. At a time of economic crisis, for both residents as well as for the state coffers, the coalition of organizations ranging from the New Jersey Policy Perspective to New Jersey Citizen Action to the Latino Action Network to NJ Working Families feel that the state needs to deliver on an array of funding projects affected, stalled, reduced, or unimplemented since the pandemic struck.
The coalition called for Governor Murphy to make broad strides in fully funding public education, children’s services, public health, higher education, student debt elimination, closing corporate tax loopholes, addressing racial inequity that has been magnified during the pandemic, as well as environmental issues, and more. To pay for these initiatives, they want the state to ensure that the wealthiest segments of society and industry “pay their fair share.”
Sheila Reynertson of New Jersey Policy Perspective said that the policy decisions made would determine whether the state had a strong or a weak economic recovering, adding that “these destructive events have exposed the ugly rot” of discrimination. “We are here today to call on the governor and legislature to craft a budget that centers on the people, not special interests.”
Dena Mottola Jaborska, Associate Director of New Jersey Citizen Action, said that “Low- and moderate-income families are still suffering from the effects of the pandemic” and their requests for state spending “run the gamut from housing to utility assistance, to an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and child tax credits, to health coverage for all children and direct cash assistance for working immigrants excluded from COVID relief.” Jaborska said that it was “a large investment package, but one necessary to ensure a recovery for all, the only kind of recovery that can be effective: a recovery that invests from the bottom up and not the other way around.”
Those on the call were united in the sentiment that the state’s budget represents the moral values of the state itself. The Reverend Sara Lilia, who serves as Director of Lutherans Engaging in Advocacy Ministry, said, “The Bible teaches us where your money is there your heart is also. Where we look at where money is being spent, we can see the values and heart of our state… When we look at revenue, we can see who we prioritize.” To derive the necessary funding, she said, “we also need to raise revenues for those who can afford it the most and suffered the least.”
It was a theme echoed by the many speakers—the wealthy have a moral obligation to contribute towards the benefit of the whole, especially those segments of society which have been hit the hardest by the pandemic and institutional challenges which existed even before that.
Governor Murphy has been the champion of the progressive movement in New Jersey, although many of his likely and presumed allies have charged that he has not done enough. There is also the fact of the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic which put the brakes on many of the normal operations of the state, to the detriment of the residents. Additionally, funding and revenues for the Garden State are critical and have been even before the pandemic, with massive liabilities threatening the state and an unshakable reputation for burdensome taxes. With businesses closed and residents struggling to get by, the state itself was forced to borrow huge sums of money in an emergency move that alarmed Republicans and fiscal conservatives to the point of challenging it in court, although to no effect.
The governor, himself a millionaire, successfully advanced his millionaire’s tax—one of the planks in his platform from the start—although not without great difficulty even in a Democratic-controlled legislature. Wealthy New Jerseyans, the coalition charges, should also be the ones to financially carry through the many programs and initiatives they are calling for to be fulfilled to ensure a healthy state recovery.
Sue Altman, Executive Director of New Jersey Working Families, vehemently rejected the idea that increased taxation could lead to an exodus of businesses or residents for other states. “As NJPP and national partners have proven time and time and time again, there is no such thing as millionaire…