Steve Oroho, the new state Senate minority leader, enjoyed his day in Trenton on Tuesday, watching Gov. Phil Murphy take the oath of office for the second time.
His Republican Party, of course, didn’t win in November, but Oroho (R-Sparta) said the significance of the day remains special.
“You have to have great respect for the office,” he said.
You also take people at their word.
That’s why Oroho was excited to hear Murphy say he’s eager and willing to work with everyone in Trenton. Even more, he seemingly said he’s willing to take up a lot of Republican issues.
“The theme running through all the speeches was affordability and property taxes,” Oroho said. “We’ve been talking about that for a long time.
“I take everybody at their word — and I’m ready to work.”
Some of the heavy lifting, he said, already is done.
“A lot of that is in the Path to Progress,” he said. “There are a lot of recommendations in there that talk about affordability. We’re ready to talk about it. We’re ready to implement them.”
Politics being what they are, there’s little chance Murphy will suddenly embrace a plan — even a bipartisan plan — created by Oroho and former state Senate President Steve Sweeney.
That’s OK, too, Oroho said.
There is other low-hanging fruit.
Oroho is eager for the state to challenge the tax collection of New Jersey residents by New York — which still insists the workforce comes into the city on a daily basis.
Oroho, who has raised the issue repeatedly since the start of the pandemic — see here and here, for instance — said it’s time to fight back on that one. It’s a fight some estimate could be worth billions of dollars to New Jersey.
“We’ve got to be aggressive on that,” he said. “That’s money that’s just sitting on the table. It’s a huge tax cut for a lot of people, and New York has been very aggressive on keeping it.
“I’m hoping for some positive discussions with the administration, because I think it’s safe to say now that work from home is here to stay for a large number of people. I just saw an article that said it could be as much as 30% to 40%.”
Oroho also would like to see changes to donations to New Jersey-based charities. He wants to allow residents to be able to deduct it from their state taxes. And, while he acknowledges that would reduce the haul brought in by the Treasury, he said it would substantially increase money given to in-state charities.
“The tax loss would be 6 cents on the dollar compared to what would come in,” he said.
None of this is new. But the inauguration and the start of a new Legislature gives Oroho hope for new relationships.
“I’m ready to get down to work,” he said.
If nothing else, Murphy did sign an Oroho-backed bipartisan bill that revises the way the optional/elective pass-through business alternative income tax is calculated.
Under the new law, the pass-through entity’s tax will be calculated based on all income of the entity (not just operations in New Jersey) if the income would be taxable under the gross income tax. The owners of pass-through entities who are New Jersey residents will therefore be able to obtain a larger gross income tax credit.
“This will help New Jersey corporations cut their tax bill to the feds without impacting state revenue,” he said. “This is good news for employers in a state infamous for its inhospitable business environment. Money that would otherwise go to Washington will remain here in New Jersey.”
Oroho called it a sensible solution — and he said there are many others out there. He’s eager to discuss them.
“Now that the housekeeping is complete, we shouldn’t waste any time getting back to work in Trenton on efforts to make New Jersey more affordable,” he said.
“After the November election, the governor and legislative leaders of both parties said addressing affordability would be a priority. After all that talk, it’s time to show people some real action. Senate Republicans are ready to work.”