A Friday afternoon deadline is looming for Gov. Phil Murphy to decide whether to extend the state’s expired and controversial corporate tax breaks – which he has promised to veto – and still, no deal appears in sight, according to a person familiar with the discussions who requested anonymity.
Murphy has until 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 23 to approve or veto the measure, or send it back to the Legislature for changes after the heads of both the Senate and Assembly called “quorum” for their respective houses for late Friday—a parliamentary procedure that will now require action on any bills that have been sitting on the governor’s desk this summer.
The quorum was called to allow for the introduction of a separate bill regarding voting by mail.
Lawmakers sent Murphy a bill in late June that would extend until January 2020 both the Grow New Jersey corporate tax breaks and Economic Redevelopment and Growth gap financing program, to buy time for the administration and legislative leadership to hash out a new set of incentives.
Murphy’s criticisms of the tax break program have been longstanding. And, an audit released in January found glaring holes in the Economic Development Authority’s oversight of the program.
His promises to veto the measure – Assembly Bill 5343 – come in light of a task force which presented evidence that politically connected figures, or those within their circles – such as South Jersey powerbroker George Norcross – allegedly crafted much of the Grow NJ program to benefit themselves and their business allies.
“We’re still talking. Just at this moment, there’s not an agreement” said the person in the Legislature. “I don’t think there’ll be one on Friday, but that’s where it’s at.”
The governor’s office could not immediately be reached for comment.
The lack of the state’s flagship incentive programs has lawmakers and business advocates worried that New Jersey now lacks the means to attract business to the state; that there is nothing to keep those businesses from moving to neighboring states or not even considering New Jersey.
In October, Murphy unveiled a set of five new economic incentives capped at $400 million a year, but the Legislature has yet to take up the measures.
Murphy has argued that he would only accept a Grow NJ and ERG extension if heavy annual caps to both programs are put in place. But Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District, one of the biggest supporters in the Legislature of both programs, said he would not support any type of cap.