NEW JERSEY - New Jersey is facing a budget shortfall due to the coronavirus pandemic but that isn't stopping the governor from proposing a new entitlement program.
Democratic Governor Phil Murphy is calling for the creation of a so-called "baby bond" program for newborns.
He says the proposal is designed to narrow the wealth gap by giving most children born in the state a $1,000 bond that would accrue value over time.
Murphy unveiled the plan at a revised budget plan address on Tuesday.
"This investment will provide tens of thousands of future New Jerseyians with hope for a better life starting on day one of their own life," Murphy said.
The governor wants to use tax dollars to provide the money to any family meeting certain income thresholds. For instance, a family of four making less than $131,000 a year would be eligible.
"As this child grows so too will the value of this bond to help pay for things like college to help ultimately to make a down payment on a home or to help start a small business," Murphy said.
But, New Jersey is already having to borrow millions to balance a budget that was in bad shape before the pandemic. New Jersey taxpayers would pay interest for years on those bonds.
Republicans in the Democratic-controlled state assembly are critical of the money giveaway.
"Just because you're born, we send you a check?" Republican Minority Leader Jon Bramnick asked. "This should be a program to determine who needs help and who doesn't and then we devise programs to help the needy, not just random giving of money."
It is unclear how likely the plan is to make it through the legislature but Senate President Steve Sweeney, a fellow Democrat, didn't rule out any the governor's proposal.
"It would be very irresponsible to say anything is off the table," he said in an interview.