Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin entertained the possibility of holding an emergency legislative session during the Assembly midterms and ensuing lame duck session on the state’s corporate tax breaks – now expired as of July 1.
The state’s two largest economic incentive programs – the Grow New Jersey corporate tax breaks and the Economic Redevelopment and Growth residential project gap financing grants – have become embroiled in a political tug-of-war between Gov. Phil Murphy and Democratic legislative leaders.
Coughlin, D-19th District, at his monthly “Speak to the Speaker” radio segment on WCTC Friday morning, said that the last chance for lawmakers to act on any legislative priorities would be the lame duck session—the months between the November midterm elections and the start of the new legislative session in January.
He had been asked during the radio what issues, if any, would warrant an emergency session. Assembly lawmakers would otherwise not likely vote or act on any major issues while they campaign in their home districts.
Once the new session starts in January, “[i]f a bill didn’t become a law, it’s done, even if it’s out of committee in both houses,” Coughlin said. “So we’re setting priorities for the lame duck session, setting priorities for the fall, [for] things to come.”
“The tax incentive program is kind of out there. We’re continuing to try to work through those things and other things,” the speaker added.
Murphy had vowed to veto legislation that lawmakers sent to him in June extending Grow NJ and ERG for seven months, and did not act on it before the July 1 expiration. Under the two programs, the state awarded billions of dollars in economic incentives since their expansion in 2013.
But, the governor’s chief legislative rival, Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District, said that a veto override is on the table, and the Grow NJ and ERG extension bill passed with veto-proof majorities in both houses in June.
A task force Murphy put together in January has in recent months honed in on how businesses with strong ties to South Jersey political powerbroker George Norcross unfairly benefited from hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks for their move to Camden.
Sweeney – a childhood friend of Norcross and one of the insurance executive’s strongest legislative allies – is an ardent supporter of Grow NJ, having frequently touted its benefits for the state’s economy.
Murphy meanwhile wants to completely replace Grow NJ and ERG with a set of five new incentives capped at $400 million a year.