Plenty of opposition to Murphy’s budget proposals

Business groups among those challenging governor’s plan to rebuild N.J. economy

By Tom Bergeron
Trenton | Feb 25, 2020 at 5:00 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy’s budget address was filled with a wish list — and an increased millionaire’s tax — that made those supporting his progressive agenda happy.

(See ROI-NJ’s recap here.)

But there was plenty of opposition.

Here’s a look at just some of the state leaders who questioned Murphy’s budget with statements following his address:

Tom Bracken, CEO and president, New Jersey Chamber of Commerce

The governor’s speech did contain much the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce can support. We believe the investments in education and infrastructure are good for New Jersey’s economy. We welcome the economic stability that would come with meaningful payments to the state pension system. But nothing in the governor’s proposed budget gets to the heart of the matter — addressing the core issues of New Jersey’s affordability and lack of competitiveness. We need to make the New Jersey economy stronger.

Gov. Murphy has again called for a so-called millionaire’s tax as a way to grow and sustain revenue. In making this proposal, the governor said there is no proof New Jersey’s highest-bracket taxpayers are leaving the state. The study by Wealth X in 2019 showed very clearly that more than 5,000 residents with net worth over $1 million had fled New York and New Jersey in 2018. These are exactly the people we need to keep in New Jersey so they invest in the state and invest in the new companies and new jobs we need.

Regina Egea, president, Garden State Initiative

Last November, GSI released a poll conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s School of Public & Global Affairs indicating property taxes and the overall cost of living as the main reasons why more than 1 in 4 (28%) plan to depart the Garden State within five years. The desire to leave New Jersey is strongest among two groups: almost 40% of young residents (18-29), and a third (33%) of those nearing retirement (50-64), plan to leave New Jersey within the next five years.

So it is surprising that, despite revenue collections over $1 billion ahead of last year’s collections, and the governor’s stated plan to reduce structural costs, for the 3rd straight year Gov. Murphy presented a budget that raises taxes and increases spending even more. With all of the promises of relief, why aren’t property taxpayers seeing tax reductions?

Steve Oroho, state senator (R-Sparta)

Gov. Murphy’s spending plan is 5% larger than last year’s and 18% higher than when he took office. He’s already raised taxes by billions and proposed nearly a billion more in tax increases this year. What we haven’t seen from the governor is a genuine attempt to lower the real cost drivers in government.

Christina Renna, CEO, Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey

The FY2021 budget address was more of the same from Gov. Phil Murphy: proposed tax increases that will only make New Jersey increasingly less competitive. Regardless of what the governor stated, the outmigration of wealth is real, as is the outmigration of college students who cannot afford to live here upon graduation. If we want to keep our educated future workforce in New Jersey, this is not the proper path forward.

The only solution the governor offers is a renewed call for a millionaire’s tax, which directly impacts residents and small businesses alike, instead of looking to addressing the tax incentives program, which will bring jobs and keep businesses in New Jersey. The CCSNJ looks forward to weighing in on the FY2021 proposal and offering suggestions that will make New Jersey more affordable for our businesses and residents.

Michele Siekerka, CEO, New Jersey Business & Industry Association

This proposed budget continues along the well-worn path of more taxation and spending without truly addressing the structural issues that leave New Jersey with an ever-increasing mountain of debt.

Today’s proposal increases New Jersey’s overall budget by 5.4% compared to last fiscal year and 17.6% from FY2018. To balance this additional spending, the governor is again looking to place an even greater burden on our already-overtaxed residents and job creators whose slim profit margins have been reduced amid costly mandates and onerous regulations.

The question we need to ask ourselves today is: How can tax increases be justified at a time of a budget surplus, built largely on the backs of business, and when spending on discretionary items is going up by hundreds of millions of dollars?

Ralph Thomas, CEO, New Jersey Society of CPAs

We applaud the governor for not including in his proposed budget an increase in New Jersey’s sales tax and changes to the state’s overall corporate business taxes, but his proposal to expand the millionaire’s tax will drive high-earning residents and their tax dollars out of the state and hurt small businesses that flow their income taxes through personal returns, while doing nothing to address New Jersey’s ballooning pension liability.

The only way to solve the state’s debt problem is through pension and benefit reform, which is why the NJCPA continues to endorse Senate President (Steve) Sweeney’s “Path to Progress” package of bills that would, among other things, shift from the current defined benefit pension system to a sustainable hybrid system and change benefits for new public workers, which could save the state millions of dollars a year.

The NJCPA has long advocated for policies that will generate economic growth and a fair tax system that enables companies and individuals to thrive. We are concerned that the increased spending and revenue raisers in the governor’s budget will have far-reaching consequences, affecting New Jersey’s ability to grow and attract business.

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