The Democrat-controlled state Senate voted 21-17 Thursday evening to approve a budget containing a corporate income tax so opposed by Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy that he's threatened to veto it once it lands on his desk.
The state Assembly was also expected to vote on the plan by the end of the night, potentially putting the Trenton power players on a collision course towards a government shutdown.
The voting followed hours of unsuccessful talks between leaders of the Legislature and representatives of the governor to hammer out a compromise budget package.
There is a June 30 deadline to implement a fiscal 2019 budget. The $36.5 billion budget approved by the Senate would bump the tax rate up to 13 percent, the highest in the nation. The first-term governor has said he wouldn't approve a budget that lacked a millionaires' tax and an increase of the sales tax up to 7 percent from 6.6 percent, both missing from the Legislature’s budget plan.
"The Legislature seems intent on keeping the legacy of [former Gov.] Chris Christie alive and with a budget to match," Murphy said at press conference late Thursday afternoon. "I will not put forward gimmicks and games that I know are ticking time bombs and call it a day."
Murphy took repeated jabs at Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and Senate President Stephen Sweeney, both also Democrats, and said that they were working with "alt. facts" in terms of their budget numbers.
As for the meetings which took place between Sweeney, Coughlin and Murphy throughout the day, Murphy said "there was a very disappointing rejection on their part of facts."
Murphy denied reports that he was considering a two phase-in of the sales tax up to 7 percent, and increasing the threshold of the millionaires' tax to residents earning above $5 million.
He also rejected rosy projections of upwards of $300 million in the state budget that could result from today's 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision to enable states to impose a sales tax on online purchases, even on retailers without a physical presence in the state.
The governor estimated the projections would likely be no less than $24 million.
Republicans on the sidelines of the internecine fight among Democrats signaled opposition to helping either side, as long as taxes were a key part of their budget proposals. Yet efforts continued to push something to the floor in the Senate and the Assembly that might muster enough votes to send a budget to Murphy, the prospect of a quick veto notwithstanding.