As a member of the Assembly Budget Committee, I recently participated in the first of a series of hearings on our state budget which must be approved by July 1.

After last year’s budget increased spending by $2.7 billion and raised taxes by more than $1.5 billion, I had hoped Gov. Murphy would use this year’s budget to finally offer some relief to the state’s overburdened taxpayers. Instead, Murphy’s budget plan would increase spending by $1.2 billion and raise taxes by another $560 million. In fact, since Gov. Murphy took office two years ago, spending is up by more than 11 percent and taxes have increased by more than $2.25 billion.

It is clear from this budget proposal that providing relief to taxpayers is not a priority of this governor — a fact very clearly illustrated by his plan to slash funding for the Senior Freeze and the Homestead Benefit — two invaluable programs for residents struggling with ever-increasing property taxes. At the same time, Murphy continues to allocate more funding for costly new initiatives like “free” college tuition which will receive an additional $33 million in taxpayer dollars.

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And while the governor embarks on another ambitious spending spree, he again neglects to address many of our current fiscal challenges, including our massively underfunded pension fund and the multitude of problems that continue to plague our mass transit systems.

Although, the Legislature will be given the opportunity to modify this spending proposal, I am less than optimistic that there will be dramatic changes made with the taxpayers in mind. While Murphy and legislative leaders may haggle over which taxes to increase, it is likely wishful thinking to hope the same lawmakers that recently approved both a “rain tax” and a “parking tax” will suddenly advocate for tax relief.

As the budget process plays out over the next few months, I will continue to utilize my role on the Budget Committee to oppose the unrestrained spending and tax hikes that are forcing more and more of our friends, neighbors and family members to leave New Jersey for more affordable locations.

Assemblyman Edward H. “Ned” Thomson represents the 30th Legislative District, which includes Belmar and Lake Como.