MONROE – The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce breakfast roundtable on Tuesday featured the leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties engaging in a civil discussion about the hot-button issue of tax relief.
Majority Leader Lou Greenwald, (D-6) of Voorhees, who was the Chamber’s 2009 Legislator of the Year, told a large group of business leaders and lobbyists that addressing the property tax issue should be the top priority.
“It’s the property taxes that make us lose our competitive advantage,” he said at the Forsgate Country Club. “(That) is what stunts the growth.”
He caused a bit of a stir when he called businesses “special interests,” since they lobby for specific things, but later clarified his comments and labeled them “valuable resources.”
About Gov. Chris Christie’s 10 percent income tax cut proposal, Greenwald said, “It’s the wrong tax at the wrong time at the wrong problem.”
However, Republican Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, (R-21), of Westfield, said it would be “disingenuous” to think one tax cut is more important than another. He said that after “eight years of mismanagement,” it is time to provide relief to residents and employers.
“People do leave this state for reasons other than high property taxes,” he said. “If businesses don’t survive, we won’t have funding to support social programs.”
He said he saw the effect of taxes and regulations when his father ran his business in Plainfield.
But Greenwald said asking the state’s 16,000 wealthiest people out of 2.6 million filers to pay more in income taxes could go a long way to stimulate the economy. Giving tax breaks to millionaires will not have as big an effect, Greenwald said.
“That concept of trickle-down economics has not worked,” Greenwald said.
Greenwald added that when wealthy residents leave the state, their properties are taken over by other well-heeled residents.
“It is a trade. It is an exchange. Millionaires come and go. They’re replaced by others,” he said. “This is an attractive place to do business.”
But Bramnick said providing the income tax cut would send a signal to businesses that the state is open for business.
“You’re going to choose the best environment to run your business,” Bramnick said.
The debate comes as the state’s deadline for finalizing the next fiscal year’s budget draws closer. The Assembly Democrats are pushing a property tax cut that includes a millionaire’s tax; the Senate Democrats have a tax cut plan without the millionaire’s tax; and the administration wants the across-the-board income tax cut and has vowed that the Assembly Democrats’ plan will not become law.