NJ Politics Digest: Will Legislature Flex Its Muscle in Fight Over Tax Breaks?

The state legislature approved extending the state's business tax incentive program with large majorities, even as Gov. Phil Murphy blasted the action and threatened to veto it. The question is, does Murphy's threat matter?

Craig Coughlin.
Craig Coughlin. Kevin B. Sanders for Observer

The state legislature approved extending the state’s business tax incentive program with large majorities, even as Gov. Phil Murphy blasted the action and threatened to veto it. The question is, does Murphy’s threat matter?

If all the legislators who voted for the measure were to continue their support, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin could override a Murphy veto, dealing yet another embarrassment to Murphy in his ongoing battle with a legislature controlled by his own party.

Sweeney and Coughlin weren’t about to commit to an override effort Thursday, with Coughlin saying the legislature is willing to work with the governor toward a plan all sides can agree on, according to a report by NJ.com.

But they have also stressed the need for New Jersey to have some kind of incentive program in order to remain competitive with other states. The bill approved Thursday would extend the deadline for applications to program for one year, to July 1, 2020.

Coughlin said the bills would allow them time to come up with a different plan, the NJ.com report said.
Murphy has put forth his own plan that would reduce the size of potential tax breaks and prioritize awards to companies that base their headquarters in the state. He has said the current legislation was tailored to benefit politically connected firms and individuals.

Murphy created a task force to investigate the program, and that body has focused on grants given to firms connected to George Norcross, a political powerbroker and close friend of Sweeney’s. Critics say the task force is an attempt by Murphy to weaken Norcross and Sweeney. The senate president has largely thwarted Murphy from enacting his progressive agenda.

Quote of the Day: “He controls the whole agency. He doesn’t need to do a veto.” — Senate President Steve Sweeney, on Gov. Phil Murphy’s objections to a bill extending the state’s economic incentive program overseen by the Economic Development Authority.

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