by Margo Riser
TRENTON, N.J. – Assembly Republicans rejected Gov. Phil Murphy’s request to push the gubernatorial budget message to Tuesday, March 8 from Tuesday, Feb. 22, saying the move is politically motivated and unnecessarily delays an important process.
The bill (A2063) extending the delivery of the statutorily-mandated message was passed in a 43-32 vote along party lines on Monday.
“The Legislature on both sides of the aisle has been trying to get the cooperation from the governor during the entire pandemic. He has thumbed his nose at us and has constantly run the state as a one-man band. And now he needs something from the Legislature,” said Assemblyman Hal Wirths (R-Sussex), the Assembly Republican budget officer. “When we asked him not to do the public health emergency, he went and instituted it anyway, which kept our kids masked up, put prisoners back on the street, and made workers’ comp claims get paid unnecessarily. There is no scientific reason for this bill – this coincides with the unmasking of the kids. I urge everyone to vote no to get things back to normal.”
“The budget message isn’t merely ceremonial in nature, it starts the budget process and the budget process is a very defined timeline. The last session, the majority party had the full amount of time between the budget message and the budget deadline and you barely got it done,” said Assemblyman Brian Bergen (R-Morris). “Every time this legislative body comes to a crossroads, where you can chose between transparency, good government, open public input, lengthy discussion and debate with the intent of getting to the best possible solution the first time, or opaqueness, backroom deals, and a rushed legislative process, you always make the wrong choice. Hold the governor accountable for once. Make the governor do what he’s supposed to do.”
Deputy Assembly Republican Leader Nancy Munoz cited an analysis out of Johns Hopkins University that found measures to protect Covid spread made no significant difference and news reports on Murphy’s post-election focus groups to prove his request is based on political science.
“Sadly, Governor Murphy hasn’t dropped the act. He says it’s data-driven decisions, but we just don’t see it. Pushing the budget address back has nothing to do with science, it’s political science. Covid has been used as a cop-out for too long. This bill helps the governor politically, while the actions over the past two years have proven not to help the residents medically,” said Munoz, the ranking Republican on the Assembly Budget Committee.
“The system is broken. Our process is no longer responsive. Last year, nearly 30 bills passed and were signed into law that circumvented our committee process. If we do not adhere to our processes, we disenfranchise our residents. They have lost trust in us. I urge all of my colleagues, on this procedural matter, to respect the process and vote no on this extension,” said Assemblywoman Aura Dunn (R-Morris), a new member of the Assembly Budget Committee and sponsor of a constitutional amendment to require every bill to be heard in committee.
The bill, which went straight to both chamber’s floors on Monday, also passed the Senate by a vote of 23-11.