NJ reaches budget deal to avert government shutdown

State Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Gov. Phil Murphy

State Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Gov. Phil Murphy

Murphy said in the letter he discussed the proposal "at length" with leaders, but it was the first time the details were made public, and a further development in a more than weeklong negotiation amid the state's Democratic leaders over the proposed almost $37 billion budget.

Murphy said in a letter dated Friday to Senate President Steve Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and lawmakers that he is willing, under certain conditions, to take off the table his proposal to hike the sales tax. He says he is also accepting a legislative proposal to hike business taxes, but at different rates.

It was the state's first budget deal in eight years with a Democrat at the helm, instead of Republican firebrand and one-time presidential hopeful Chris Christie. They mended disagreements over which taxes to raise and presented a budget that boosts spending in the pension, transit and education. If the state government closed, state-run beaches and parks would have shuttered just before the July 4 holiday on Wednesday.

Last July, widespread derision followed a photo of Christie and his family lounging on a beach that had otherwise been closed to the public during the shutdown, which lasted three days.

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Earlier Saturday, the Assembly passed legislation to keep state parks and beaches open to visitors in the event of a state shutdown. It also raises the business tax on companies making more than $1 million by an average of 2 percent over four years.

The agreement finances spending increases by raising the income tax on people making $5 million and above from 8.97 percent to 10.75 percent. Sweeney called it "one hell of a journey".

"We agree that we must ask the wealthiest of New Jersey [residents] to pay their fair share to allow us to ramp up our school's funding and property tax relief", added the Governor.

Much of the debate has centered on how much to raise taxes.

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In the end, Murphy said he agreed to levy the higher income tax on people making $5 million because lawmakers agreed to the 10.75 percent, up from their earlier proposal of 9.95 percent.

Murphy had made a tax on income over $1 million - a key campaign promise backed by liberal organizations and labor - a sticking point.

The legislature is expected to officially vote on and pass the budget Sunday morning.

New Jersey lawmakers are set to vote on a $37.4 billion budget deal brokered with Gov. Phil Murphy just hours ahead of a midnight deadline.

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