A framework for a possible legislative counterproposal to Gov. Phil Murphy's state budget obtained by NJ Advance Media shows just how far apart New Jersey's top elected officials are with just 19 days to the deadline for a spending plan.
The one-page outline includes more than $1.6 billion in tax hikes on corporations, revenue from a tax amnesty program, plus hundreds of millions of dollars in spending cuts and projected savings the lawmakers may want in place of Murphy's proposed new tax on millionaires and his proposed bump in the sales tax.
Leaders of the Democrat-controlled state Legislature have pushed back against the new Democratic governor's tax hike plans, saying they come at a bad time for an already overtaxed population.
It's unclear if the document represents an opening volley or a final offer, or even if it represents the unanimous voice of the state Senate and state Assembly Democrats.
"I don't know what the document is. I can't comment on it. I don't know how accurate it is," Sweeney said.
"Until a final budget is introduced, anything else floating out in the ether is just idle speculation," Coughlin said. "I expect that there will be many proposals and changes to those proposals as we go through this process in the coming days."
But in addition to providing new, detailed insight into how Democrats might counter Murphy, the document -- obtained by NJ Advance Media on Sunday -- reflects what Democratic leaders have expressed publicly, including their disinterest in funding free community college and their preference for a corporation business tax.
Murphy in March introduced his $37.4 billion spending plan that relied on those new taxes to boost spending for schools, NJ Transit, government worker pensions and other progressive promises.
Now that it's in the Legislature's hands, lawmakers can either negotiate a budget deal with Murphy, a process that is already underway in Trenton, or introduce their own spending blueprint. But that would leave Murphy the option to veto the budget in part or in full.
This outline lays out significant alterations Democrats would like to make to Murphy's budget proposal, both in spending and revenues.
In it, lawmakers ask for more than $350 million in new spending, including $143 million to restore the Homestead property tax credits that Murphy underfunded, and they want $150 million to revive some $123 million in Democratic legislative spending priorities Murphy killed out his budget, plus some new items.
Finally, they want nearly $61.6 million more for school funding.
On the other side of the ledger, the proposal includes offerings from both Senate and Assembly leadership, including Sweeney's call for a 3 percentage point increase in the Corporation Business Tax and Coughlin's suggested tax amnesty program to bring in cash from delinquent taxpayers.
Sweeney first raised the Corporation Business Tax surcharge as an alternative to Murphy's tax proposals in March, saying corporations fared better under federal tax reforms than did wealthy individuals.
Corporations were the big winners in that GOP-backed tax reform, which cut the federal tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent.
Sweeney has estimated the increase in the tax rate from 9 percent to 12 percent on the 2,375 New Jersey corporations with more than $1 million in income would raise roughly $700 million a year.
The surcharge would expire after two years, whereas Murphy's tax proposals had no sunset.
"This is a temporary move, and that concerns me because we are funding long term," Murphy said Friday.
Where Sweeney has challenged Murphy on raising the millionaires tax, which he warned could drive away the state's mobile and well-to-do, Murphy questioned whether the same might be true of the corporate tax hike.
"If someone employs a thousand, two thousand people, that impacts a huge number of people's lives," Murphy said Friday. "That's homes that won't get bought. Restaurants that won't get the business. That's a tax we've got to be very careful with."
The budget alternative also estimates $150 million from a tax amnesty program that gives taxpayers with past-due bills a chance to settle-up with New Jersey.
This is just one of several types of income called "one shots," which means they can't be counted on for more than one fiscal year.
The Wall Street agencies that rate New Jersey's creditworthiness criticized former Gov. Chris Christie for patching his budgets with these one-time revenues, such as proceeds from court settlements and property sales. Murphy's administration, too, has criticized those past moves, saying more sustainable funding streams are needed.
Under the proposal, the state would recover $100 million through an audit of the prescription drug plan for public workers and $50 million from an audit of Medicare payments.
Asked about the proposal on Monday, a Murphy spokesman, Dan Bryan, blasted a budget plan relying on one shot revenues.
"Governor Murphy has been clear about the need for responsible, sustainable revenue sources in the FY19 budget," Bryan said.
"Trenton must finally end the days of one-shots and revenue gimmicks and commit itself to an honest budget that meets its obligations, is taken seriously by ratings agencies, and makes a historic investment in the middle class. New Jersey cannot afford to kick the can down the road any further," he continued.
The proposal also projects $75 million in savings from reducing the Medicaid reimbursement for emergency room visits to $140, and anticipates the state won't need to make a debt service payment on the $300 million it financed for a massive Statehouse renovation that it plans to refinance this year.
Taking a page from Christie, their plan also assumes $43 million through savings lawmakers hope to find in employee health care.
Lawmakers also want to reduce the appropriation for long-term support services that help elderly and disabled residents stay in their homes, assuming the state has overestimated the cost for this program, according to the document.
They would also shift another $75 million from the New Jersey Turnpike to New Jersey Transit, among other changes.
NJ Advance Media staff writers Brent Johnson contributed to this report.