‘It’s about time’: Gov. Murphy releases millions in frozen funds, but underlying issues remain

David Madden
January 16, 2020 - 8:10 pm
Steve Sweeney; Phil Murphy

Mitsu Yasukawa/Northjersey.com; Flickr

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UPDATED: Jan. 17, 12:30 p.m.

TRENTON, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — Millions of dollars have been released in New Jersey to organizations whose pledges of state funding were held up for six months in a political tug-of-war between Gov. Phil Murphy and Senate President Steve Sweeney. 

The Murphy administration lifted a hold on about $235 million allocated to various programs, mostly in South Jersey.

The governor insists it was about making sure revenues came in as expected. Sweeney counters it was payback for opposing Murphy’s desire to expand the scope of the millionaires tax from last summer.

Related: Battle between Murphy, Sweeney over frozen NJ money re-emerges

Almost half the money was released in October 2019. The rest was released on Thursday after state revenues came in around 7.5% above last year’s mid-fiscal year levels.

Sweeney’s reaction came in the form of a press release topped with the quote: "It’s about time." He said the programs in need of the money — going toward cancer research, education, and the like — were the true victims in this dispute.

Dan Lombardo, president of the Volunteers of America Delaware Valley, said his organization will receive an extra $1 million to expand a program that helps released prison inmates adjust to outside life in Burlington and Cape May counties. 

“We have a process of meeting with local police departments, with local government officials and then we’ll be recruiting and hiring staff. We’ll be looking for office space,” he said.

Although he’s grateful that the freeze was lifted, he would just as soon stay out of the whole political spectacle. 

Stockton University will receive an extra $4 million for ongoing expansion. Spokeswoman Diane D’Amico said the school is grateful, but also has no interest in getting in the middle of a dispute between the state’s top two Democrats.

“They’re great supporters of Stockton and we work well with both of them and certainly plan to continue that relationship,” she added.

The dispute centers on how much annual income would trigger the higher tax rate. The governor wants it to apply to all people earning more than $1 million rather than the current $5 million trigger.

In this week’s State of the State address, Murphy told legislators he still wants that added tax. Sweeney remains opposed, and come June, the argument could start all over again.​