New Jersey Democrats on Friday continued their weeks-long crusade to push back against the national Republican tax overhaul, a plan that New Jersey Policy Perspective estimates would up taxes for middle-class and low-income New Jersey families but cut taxes for the wealthy and corporations.
Four of New Jersey’s top Democrats —Gov.-elect Phil Murphy, Sen. Bob Menendez, Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. Frank Pallone— participated in a telephone town hall on Friday to denounce the plan and discuss next steps for minimizing the impact on New Jersey families. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that the plan as passed in the Senate last week could spike the national deficit by over $1.4 trillion over the next ten years.
“This plan… would be an absolute disaster for New Jersey,” Murphy said.
The incoming governor will be sworn in on Jan. 16 and has said that he is not opposed to taking legal action against the federal government to prevent changes to the state and local tax (SALT) deduction, a popular program that many New Jersey families use to avoid paying property taxes twice, both locally and to the federal government. Murphy said that the plan is driven by efforts by President Trump and national Republicans to appeal to a wealthy donor base.
“This whole trickle down theory… never will work,” Murphy said. “If these corporations get a lower tax rate they will do one of two things, pay their executives more… or satisfy shareholders.”
The tax plan, which was passed in different versions by the House and Senate and now needs to be reconciled, could also see 340,000 more New Jersey residents without insurance by 2027, according to estimates from NJPP, a liberal think tank.
Menendez is one of seven Democratic senators that will be serving on the conference committee of the House and Senate that will negotiate the final version of the tax legislation. Menendez said that he will fight against the SALT gut and health care-related provisions of the bill that he claims will strip coverage from 13 million Americans. While there is some room for Democrats to negotiate, the final bill will likely favor national Republican interests since the GOP has the majority in both Houses of Congress.
“This is an all hands on deck situation. I think Republicans are desperate to give President Trump a win even if it means passing a bill that is overall bad for the American people,” Menendez said on Friday. “I know that my fellow Democrats that I have spoken to on the conference committee and I are demanding that the process be open to the public.”
Booker and Menendez have both advocated that Republican House members from blue states can work to keep the SALT deduction in place. On Friday, Booker called on majority members from high-cost states to step up and protect those deductions, noting that states like New Jersey send significantly more in tax dollars to the federal government than are returned with federal programs.
“The elimination of the state and local tax deduction is like taking a baseball bat to the knees of our economy,” Booker said, noting that he recently spoke with a California official who agrees that the plan could cripple the state. “This is really a tax bill that is something we should all be against.”
Only one member of New Jersey’s congressional delegation —Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-3)— voted in favor of the House GOP tax bill. MacArthur has said that the House plan’s to limit the SALT deduction to $10,000 is a significant enough offset to support the plan. The four other Republican House members from New Jersey all oppose the legislation. Rep. Leonard Lance (R-7) has spearheaded a continuing effort with Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-5) to keep SALT in place, introducing legislation to protect the deduction.
But, according to Pallone (D-6), more needs to be done by his fellow House members, especially those from areas that will be heavily impacted.
“I think that (Reps.) Chris Smith, Leonard Lance and Frank LoBiondo are there saying that they are going to vote against this and have,” Pallone said, noting that he has concerns regarding MacArthur and Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11), a no vote last time. But Frelinghuysen is the chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee and Pallone said that the position comes with significant “pressure.” He urged constituents to call both and increase pressure on GOP representatives and drive no votes on the final version of the bill.
Friday’s town hall call was a coordinated effort with NJPP and New Jersey Working Families Alliance.