NJ Politics Digest: Group Says Senate Task Force on Tax Breaks Is Biased

The New Jersey state house.

The New Jersey state house. Kevin B. Sanders for Observer

The state Senate is launching its own investigation into the state tax incentive program for businesses, and a group supporting Gov. Phil Murphy has argued that the probe is biased.

The Special Committee for Economic Growth is made up of seven members appointed by Senate President Steve Sweeney. But the group New Jersey Working Families has filed an ethics complaint which claims that five of the seven members of the bipartisan committee have close ties to Democratic power broker George Norcross, a close ally of Sweeney’s and who was the primary target of a task force appointed by Gov. Phil Murphy to also investigate the program, according to a report on NJ.com.

Sweeney and Murphy are locked in a bitter power struggle. Murphy’s task force—which focused on how businesses associated with Norcross, his family, and allies allegedly benefited from the tax incentive program. Norcross was not called to testify in that investigation and unsuccessfully challenged its legality. New Jersey Working Families supports Murphy’s progressive agenda, including his call for increasing the tax on the state’s highest earners—a plan Sweeney opposes and which was not included in the state budget recently approved by the legislature.

The tax incentive program and the state Economic Development Authority, which administers it, was the subject of a scathing bipartisan report by the state comptroller.

Murphy wants to change the incentive program, but last week the legislature voted to extend it for a year, a move Murphy has said he’ll veto. The legislature, however, seems to have enough votes to override the governor. Lawmakers and business leaders in the state have said allowing the program to expire without a replacement in place will put New Jersey at a disadvantage to other states when seeking to lure businesses here. Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin has said the one-year extension will give the legislature time to work on a replacement program.

Quote of the Day: “If you don’t negotiate with the legislature, you’re gonna find your veto power isn’t so strong,” — Republican Assemblyman Jon Bramnick, on Gov. Phil Murphy’s threats to line-item veto spending in the state budget if legislators don’t support his call for a hike on the state’s highest earners.

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NJ Politics Digest: Group Says Senate Task Force on Tax Breaks Is Biased