Gov. Phil Murphy on Thursday signed an executive order creating a Task Force on the New Jersey Economic Development Authority’s tax incentives programs.
The task force’s mission will be to further explore the findings of the Office of the State Comptroller audit, released Jan. 9, and provide the public with a full accounting of how and why basic controls were lacking in a program that left New Jersey taxpayers on the hook for up to $11 billion.
Murphy said that the audit validated his long-standing concerns that the state’s tax incentive programs gave out billions of dollars in tax breaks but failed to deliver on the promise of economic benefits.
“I am pleased that, under new leadership, the EDA is putting policies in place to ensure compliance with the terms of tax incentive awards, but taxpayers deserve a full explanation of how and why these massive shortcomings in performance existed,” Murphy said in a release. “The Task Force I am establishing today will give the public that explanation, and help provide a roadmap for how tax incentives can be responsibly designed and implemented going forward.”
The task force will be chaired by Ronald Chen, former New Jersey Public Advocate and dean of Rutgers School of Law-Newark.
The Governor has the authority to appoint additional members to the task force as deemed appropriate, and the task force will receive legal counsel from Walden Macht & Haran LLP, a law firm practicing white-collar litigation and government investigations.
The task force will also be assisted by Pablo Quiñones, an expert in corporate legal compliance who previously served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and as a deputy chief of the Fraud Section of the U.S. Department of Justice.
On Jan. 14, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced that his office would look into whether any of the $11 billion in awarded tax credits, detailed in the audit, were improperly granted to businesses.