(The Center Square) – New Jersey Republicans have filed legislation to take away Gov. Phil Murphy’s power to spend federal stimulus money, saying they deserve a role in the decision-making process.
S-3712 would remove language in the state budget that grants the executive branch the authority to appropriate “emergency disaster aid” and “economic stimulus” funds the federal government sends to New Jersey during the fiscal year, according to the lawmakers.
“Over the past year, we’ve learned why it’s so dangerous to give Governor Murphy, or any governor, the power to spend billions of dollars without legislative approval,” state Sen. Steven Oroho, R-Sussex, said in a news release. “Absent direct oversight, the governor has misused the authority entrusted to him through the budget to spend federal relief funds for the good of the state.
“He withheld billions in CARES Act funds from people who were desperate for help and diverted aid to subsidize his administration’s payroll instead of delivering relief,” Oroho added. “It’s clear the Legislature must reassert itself as the co-equal branch of government responsible for appropriating funds and take the checkbook out of Governor Murphy’s hands.”
New Jersey has already received billions of dollars from the federal government and could see billions more as part of Washington’s spending spree. The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP) includes $6.4 billion in federal money for the state government.
A representative for Murphy declined to comment on pending legislation.
Republicans point to a Sept. 30 report from the state auditor that found the state spent almost $288.3 million of the nearly $2.4 billion in Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) the federal government sent to the Garden State as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
According to the auditor’s report, the governor’s office, Department of the Treasury, and the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management are responsible for allocating CRF funds along with the “impacted department” and the attorney general’s office.
“After his failure with the CARES Act, we just can’t trust the governor to spend the next $6.5 billion of federal relief funds effectively,” state Sen. Michael Testa, R-Vineland, said in a news release. “Appropriations of such importance should be considered by the Legislature in an open process with public participation.”
Some lawmakers previously said they wanted Murphy to use incoming federal dollars to reduce the state’s debt.