NJCPA members cite priorities for New Jersey’s governor in new survey

In a new survey released Monday, New Jersey CPAs cited reducing property taxes and auditing state agencies for overspending and waste as the highest priorities for Gov. Phil Murphy’s new term and what action plans are needed.

Ahead of the 2021 New Jersey gubernatorial election, the New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants conducted a multiphase survey of more than 900 CPAs. Respondents ranked priorities in the following order:

  1. Reduce property taxes;
  2. Audit state agencies for overspending and waste;
  3. Improve the state’s infrastructure;
  4. Reform the public worker pension system;
  5. Reduce regulations for businesses.

For these priorities, as well as other issues facing the state of New Jersey, the NJCPA stands ready to assist lawmakers and the Murphy administration in improving the business landscape.

According to the survey, many respondents said that, because New Jersey has the highest property taxes in the nation, residents — especially retirees and young professionals — are leaving to live in more tax-friendly states. Lower taxes would encourage those finishing college to return and establish roots by being able to purchase a home. It will also attract more businesses. Survey respondents called for decoupling school taxes from property taxes, consolidation of services among towns as well as changing the school funding formula.

NJCPA members believe a streamlining of state programs must occur otherwise the state will no longer be affordable for current as well as future taxpayers. Having state agencies audited for overspending and waste would bring about more accountability and encourage ways to reduce spending.

Survey respondents also said improving the state’s infrastructure would help improve the economic landscape in the state. They noted that a strong infrastructure is a vital piece of the puzzle to attract new business as well as tourists into New Jersey as the state is a transit point between New York City and Philadelphia. They recommended eliminating all toll plazas and converting to electronic tolling like New York state.

Respondents also called on reforming the public worker pension system. At $93.7 billion, New Jersey’s outstanding pension liability represents a disproportionate part of the state’s budget — a situation that is not sustainable. They recommended implementing a 401(k) plan with an employer match for all new public sector workers and changing the pension formula so payments to retirees are not based on wages from only the last three years of employment.

In addition, reducing regulations for businesses would make the state more competitive and open to new startups. They recommended bringing back the Red Tape Commission formed by former Gov. Chris Christie to review proposed rules, regulations and gubernatorial executive orders, and to consolidate and streamline departmental regulations to start a business.

Ralph Albert Thomas. (File photo)

“Our survey results show some specific, actionable plans to set the state of New Jersey on the right economic path,” said Ralph Albert Thomas, CEO and executive director at the NJCPA. “Our member CPAs understand the needs of the business community from their role as trusted advisers to all kinds of businesses in New Jersey. We are hopeful that Gov. Murphy and New Jersey state legislators will listen to the many ideas presented in this survey.”