At the end of last month, as a final compromise deal was being hashed out on a new state spending plan, the New Jersey Legislature passed a measure that would impose a fee of 5 cents for every plastic and paper bag handed out to shoppers.

The funds to be raised by the fee, estimated to be more than $23 million, were earmarked for a lead abatement fund to be controlled by the state Department of Environmental Protection. But Gov. Phil Murphy has not signed the legislation.

During a stop in Atlantic City, Murphy said the fact that he hasn’t signed the bill yet doesn’t mean he won’t do so in the coming weeks.

“There was a sense because we didn’t include it in the budget that we had come out negatively on it. We didn’t include it in the budget because we felt we had not had the time to assess it and really analyze it," Murphy said.

"It’s something we’re still considering.”

When asked to share his general thoughts about charging a nickel for plastic bags, the governor declined to do so.

Gov. Phil Murphy. David Matthau, Townsquare Media NJ
Gov. Phil Murphy. David Matthau, Townsquare Media NJ

“I’m not dodging the question on it. It’s just we’re getting our arms around a whole lot of bills.”

Murphy then said he’s studying the issue from all sides.

“It’s not an easy one: it’s got pluses and minuses, complications and it’s one we’re going to take our time to make sure we get it right."

When the governor was asked about the final state budget agreement that was signed — which did not include a slight increase in the sales tax to 7 percent that he wanted, or a tax increase on anyone making $1 million a year (it ended up being $5 million) — he said at the end of the day he was satisfied.

“The big winner here — this just in — is the middle class of New Jersey — and that’s frankly all I care about,” said Murphy.

“We’ve not put a major jolt into the middle class financially. K-12 education, expanding pre-K, access to higher education, historic investment in NJ Transit — the overwhelming winners are the middle class and the dreams of those who someday aspire to get in it. That’s the takeaway for me.”

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