No progress yet toward budget or tax incentives agreement
NEWARK – Nearly half the time has passed between the Legislature’s June 20 passage of a state budget and extension of the controversial business tax incentive programs and the month-end deadline for enacting them, and Gov. Phil Murphy and lawmakers appear to be no closer to an agreement.
It appears they haven’t talked directly, and it’s not clear when that might happen.
“Oh yeah, we’re back and forth,” Murphy said Monday. “Our teams in particular are back and forth. But you also have the – we’re talking both privately and publicly. And we have a whole range of options that we’re considering, and we have a fair amount of clock left.”
Murphy doesn’t like some of the spending lawmakers added to the budget, opposes some funds removed from his plan, in particularly funding for community college grants, and isn’t comfortable with some revenue projections.
“I’d say we haven’t closed any of the gaps yet,” Murphy said.
Murphy said his administration has talked about shutdown contingency plans, beginning weeks ago.
“We have. That’s a normal course of business. And we had a Cabinet call I think on Friday,” Murphy said. “We’ll communicate regularly. But that’s a normal course of business that we’ve done. We did it I believe in early June.”
In a visit to the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Makerspace, a prototyping and collaboration workspace that’s currently being expanded, Murphy focused primarily on business tax incentives – both his own proposal, which hasn’t gotten traction, and the seven-month extension of the current program, which he called “shortsighted.”
“If there is a space that exemplifies our vision to reform New Jersey’s economic incentives, look around here. This is it,” Murphy said. “And if there is a space that exemplifies at the same time what has been left out of our current incentive programs and who has been overlooked in favor of the wealthy and well-connected, keep looking around. This is also it.”
Murphy said he will veto the extension of the current program but hasn’t yet because “there an opportunity here between now and June 30 to get this right.”
“Our current system is indefensible, and I believe the members of the Legislature know this,” he said.
A lineup of business officials spoke in favor of Murphy’s economic plan.
“During this time in limbo, our cities, small businesses and our residents are being affected,” said Aisha Glover, president and chief executive officer for the Newark Alliance. “I, for example, have a large global firm right now that is looking to consolidate and relocate. I have a Connecticut-based company looking to open a second, 200,000 square foot facility. We need to have certainty, and we need it to be equitable.”
“Too often, I see my startup founder friends leave the state, cross the river, to build their businesses,” said Aaron Price, founder and chief executive officer of Propelify. “And it’s frustrating, and I think we could do so much more to keep them here in New Jersey.”
Sen. Dick Codey, D-Essex, the former governor, who was one of 12 lawmakers to vote against the extension of the current tax incentive programs, alluded to South Jersey Democratic power broker George Norcross in thanking Murphy for scrutinizing the administration of the tax credit programs.
“I want to congratulate him for having the onions to do what he’s doing, to stand up, because I know what happens when you stand up to him, OK?” Codey said.
“We are at a time in our state where everything seems to be going wrong, and everything some people knew that was going on is finally coming out,” he said.