By Matt Rooney
Phil Murphy continues to display an alarming proclivity for bucking constitutional restraints and best fiscal practices when they conflict with his political goals.
Examples are a dime a dozen – most notably his litigated plan to borrow nearly $10 billion without voter approval – but you may’ve missed this development back at the end of July which will make you bang your head on the desk. Repeatedly.
Murphy issued a conditional veto of A-3971 on July 31st, the controversial bill permitting local New Jersey governments to pursue “coronavirus relief bonds.” As written, your town could use this method to borrow up to 30% of its annual budget without getting the state’s Local Finance Board to sign off. Smart policy? Of course not.
The language which Murphy struck from the original legislation is nevertheless head-scratching stuff. Here’s an explanation (published August 9th) by the New Jersey State League of Municipalities:
“The Governor’s conditional veto removed the original bill language including the ability to bond for revenue losses related to COVID-19 and replaced it with the issuance of special emergency appropriation for the immediate preparation, response, recovery, and restoration of public services in response to COVID 19 and a deficit in prior year operation during or in the immediate next fiscal year due to COVID19. A “deficit in operations” was defined as a deficit balance reported on a local unit’s “Results of Operation” schedule of the annual financial statement. The conditional veto includes a certification by the Chief Financial Officer approved by majority vote of the governing body; a 45-day window for Division of Local Government Services (DLGS) to review and either approve or deny the application, in writing; and a longer repayment scheduled if the current repayment schedule would cause significant fiscal distress as outlined in the conditional veto.”
Murphy is applying one set of rules for himself and other for your local government.
It’s also more than a little insulting in light of the fact that the Governor continues to hoard CARES Act funding.
“Basically the Governor is asking for a blank check and playing by his own set of rules while requiring localities to play by another,” tweeted Jeames Kern, a GOP Warren County freeholder. “Also we have all this borrowing talk and debate while MILLIONS of Cares Act aid sits in Trenton. Only in New Jersey!”
Only in New Jersey. Indeed.