The state Legislature’s top elected official said he was not “assuming” it to be a given that Gov. Phil Murphy would actually veto the seven-month extension lawmakers sent him for the controversial corporate tax break program, which expires June 30.
“I’m not assuming anything,” Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District, said when asked by a reporter if he would attempt to override the veto—something he has strongly signaled toward in recent weeks.
The proposed extension – Senate Bill 3901 – gained near unanimous and veto-proof approval in both the Assembly and Senate Thursday afternoon, only for Murphy to respond in a statement that he would veto the bill.
“The extension of this flawed legislation that not only has not served its intended purpose but has resulted in potential fraud on a huge scale, is nothing more than politics at its worst,” Murphy wrote in a statement.
Murphy convened a task force in January to scrutinize the tax breaks – and its 75-page report released Monday presented evidence on how businesses with close ties to South Jersey political powerbroker George Norcross crafted the Grow New Jersey tax breaks to unfairly win at least $500 million of awards, and by questionable means.
“As the allegations of wrongdoing continue to mount, we have the opportunity to pass an economic development package that will help boost communities and the people who live there, but instead, the Legislature has chosen to simply extend a program that we now know was designed to benefit a connected few without concern for taxpayers,” Murphy said.
Murphy said he would only sign the legislation if it contained “much-needed reforms”—chief among them a heavy cap of $400 million a year, something that has not gotten the support of Sweeney.
NJ Forward would replace Grow NJ and be capped at $200 million a year while NJ Aspire would replace the Economic Redevelopment and Growth gap financing program and be capped at $100 million a year.
As the allegations of wrongdoing continue to mount, we have the opportunity to pass an economic development package that will help boost communities and the people who live there, but instead, the Legislature has chosen to simply extend a program that we now know was designed to benefit a connected few without concern for taxpayers.
– Gov. Phil Murphy
“We don’t agree with everything in the legislation,” Sweeney said. “The Legislature has a right to weigh in, the governor has a right to propose things that the Legislature has a right to weigh in on.”
The incentives expire on July 1, and Murphy has indicated he would be content with nothing being put in their place when the programs lapse – but he indicated he was optimistic something can be put in their place.
“We got 11 days, I still think we can work it out, I still hope we can work it out,” Murphy said Wednesday night on WBGO’s and WNYC’s “Ask Governor Murphy” radio segment.
But Sweeney said taking the program-expiration route would be a bad move on the governor’s part.
“I wouldn’t want to go into another year without a program if I’m the governor, I absolutely wouldn’t want to do that,” Sweeney said. “So we’re not-not willing to work with him… We need to come up with a plan, so if we don’t have one, extending the existing one.”
The governor’s office could not be immediately reached for additional comment.