Thousands of New Jersey residents began getting their $500 rebate checks July 2, just before the Fourth of July weekend–a key piece of last year’s budget negotiations and a major reelection talking point from Gov. Phil Murphy.
As part of the budget deal that called for raising the income tax on millionaires reached in the fall of 2020, the $500 rebates go to households earning up to $150,000 with at least one dependent child, and individuals earning below $75,000 with at least one dependent child.
Upwards of 760,000 households across the state could benefit from the program this year. Eligibility for the rebates is based on 2020 tax returns.
With Murphy and all 120 members of the state Legislature up for reelection this November, the governor has used the $500 rebates as an election talking point.
The checks do not include his signature, unlike the federal stimulus checks that bore former President Donald Trump’s signature. But, they include an accompanying note calling the $500 a “middle-class tax rebate” and “tax relief to working families,” made possible “by asking those at the very top to pay their fair share.”
“New Jersey is built on the hard work of our middle class. This rebate shows that when you make New Jersey fairer, we make New Jersey stronger — and everyone benefits,” his note reads.
Gov. Brendan Bryne, a Democrat, in 1977 put his own name on homestead rebate checks mailed out to New Jersey residents shortly after he was elected.
The millionaire’s tax and $500 rebate package increases the tax rate from 8.97% to 10.75% for earnings between $1 million and $5 million. A budget call in 2018 enacted a “mega-millionaire’s tax” for anyone earning above $5 million, and the state’s highest-earning businesses already pay the top corporate tax rate in New Jersey.
Murphy and Democratic lawmakers rushed through the Fiscal Year 2022 $46.4 billion budget in late June, which technically includes no tax increases. Under a law Murphy signed in January, businesses after July 1 will now be on the hook for higher payroll taxes to rebuild the state unemployment trust fund, which was drained during the COVID-19 recession.
Former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, a Republican vying to unseat Murphy this November, dismissed the checks as an election gimmick.
Four years ago, @PhilMurphyNJ bought the election with his money. This time he thinks he can win using yours. Hey Phil: You don’t make New Jersey fairer or stronger by returning to hardworking New Jerseyans money you never needed to take or borrow in the first place. https://t.co/YInjSYHzXI
— Jack Ciattarelli (@Jack4NJ) July 1, 2021
“Four years ago, [Murphy] bought the election with his money,” he wrote on Twitter on July 1. “This time he thinks he can win using yours. Hey Phil: You don’t make New Jersey fairer or stronger by returning to hardworking New Jerseyans money you never needed to take or borrow in the first place.
Indeed Murphy, a former Wall Street executive, bankrolled his 2017 campaign with $22.5 million of his own funds.