TRENTON, N.J. — Democrat Phil Murphy has promised to make nearly $1 billion payments for education funding. Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno is proposing a property tax savings plan that could cost up $1.5 billion.
New Jersey is now in general election season after voters picked the leading candidates, who are offering starkly different plans for where to steer the state beyond Republican Gov. Chris Christie, though questions remain about how their ideas would be funded.
Democrat Phil Murphy and Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno became their parties’ nominees this week, defeating a combined field of nine other candidates. Christie is term-limited and couldn’t seek re-election.
A closer look at the nominees’ plans and promises and what they’re not saying specifically:
Murphy, the former Obama administration ambassador to Germany and Wall Street executive, is leading a progressive campaign focused on the economy and contrasting himself with the term-limited and unpopular Christie and Republican President Donald Trump.
He’s also made a number of promises on policies, including legalizing marijuana, fully funding the pension, increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour and rejoining a regional greenhouse gas alliance out of which Christie pulled.
Murphy also promises to fully fund a school aid formula approved of by the state Supreme Court that Christie has underfunded by about $7 billion over his two terms. Experts estimate that making good on the promise could cost $1 billion a year.
Murphy hasn’t said specifically how he’ll pay for the idea, but supports an income tax increase on earnings over $1 million, which could bring in hundreds of millions in revenue, favors taxing marijuana as a way to bring in more revenues and prohibiting the state pension from investing in hedge funds, which charge the state rates.
“We will ask the very wealthiest and the big corporations to pay their fair share,” he said.
Guadagno, who is a former sheriff and federal prosecutor, has served as Christie’s top deputy since they were elected in 2009. Her campaign has focused on making the state more affordable and is attacking Murphy over his career at Goldman Sachs, which matches former Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine’s resume in part.
Guadagno’s signature proposal is a property tax plan, which she calls a “circuit breaker” that calls for capping the school-district portion of residents’ bills at 5 percent of income. The benefit would be capped at $3,000.
If she wins, she is staking her first time on whether property taxes go down.
“I pledge to you that if we do not in our first term lower property taxes, I will not stand for re-election,” she said on Tuesday.
She has estimated that the plan will cost about $1.5 billion and that it would be paid for through a combination of savings from a statewide government audit she promises to conduct and expected economic growth.
‘SINCE TIME IMMEMORIAL’
The candidates’ promises come as Christie will leave his successor a budget with potential shortfalls: an estate and sales tax cuts are estimated to cost more than $1 billion a year after the governor leaves office.
Those revenue declines will come as the state estimates more than $1 billion in new revenues from the gas tax that was increased by 23 cents as part of that deal, but those funds are dedicated only to transportation projects.
Plans without fiscal details? That’s part of politics, experts say.
“Politicians make proposals where details aren’t worked out and financials aren’t in place since time immemorial,” said Ben Dworkin, the director of the Rebovich Institute of New Jersey Politics.
Instead, voters tend to pick candidates based on whether they live up to abstract ideals, he added.
“Voters look for people who will strike their imagination,” Dworkin said.
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