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Highlights of New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s 2nd budget

March 5, 2019

New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy unveiled his second budget on Tuesday. The $38.6 billion spending plan is about 3 percent larger than the current fiscal year’s $37.4 budget.

Here’s a look at some key proposals:

TAXES

The first-term former Wall Street executive is once again calling for higher income tax rates for people earning over $1 million.

His proposals seek to apply the state’s top bracket of 10.75 percent, which is currently levied only on incomes over $5 million, to people making more than $1 million.

The Democratic leaders who control the Legislature have said they oppose higher taxes. It’s unclear how Murphy’s spending proposal could be balanced without the roughly $450 million in revenue from the tax on the wealthy.

SAVINGS

Murphy says his proposal reflects a projected a 16 percent decrease in the cost of public worker health benefits. The savings are expected to come from shifting workers into cheaper health care plans, lowering costs related to out-of-network providers as well as from booting ineligible dependents from state plans, such as divorced spouses.

Murphy says about $200 million will come from state government staff reductions and other “departmental savings.”

SCHOOL AID

The budget calls for a $206 million boost in state aid for pre-kindergarten to 12th grade. That’s a 3 percent increase over the current year’s budget. Increased education aid, the governor said, helps reduce the need of school districts to raise their property tax rates.

HIGHER EDUCATION

The governor is calling for increasing this year’s $25 million allocation for tuition-free community college by $33.5 million. He says the beefed-up fund should help over 18,000 students get a two-year degree.

NEW JERSEY TRANSIT

Murphy is calling for an additional $100 million in general fund subsidies for NJ Transit. That will bring the operating subsidy for the state transit agency from about $307 million to $407 million.

He said there will be no fare increases if his proposal is agreed to.

PROPERTY TAXES

Murphy is asking lawmakers to approve $201 million for a property tax relief program that benefits seniors and disabled residents by freezing their rates. That’s roughly a 1 percent decrease in the program from this year, reflecting a decline in applications, according to the state Treasury Department.

He’s also budgeted $283 million for property tax rebates for moderate-income families. Most eligible homeowners received just over $200 in 2018. Homeowners who earn up to $75,000 and meet other criteria can obtain that benefit. Seniors, blind people and the disabled under 65 who earn up to $150,000 can also get the benefit.