A legislative committee formed this month by Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District, to examine the state’s tax incentive programs has finalized the lawmakers who will make up the committee—one of the first actions for the commission that might butt heads with a similarly-goaled task force unveiled by Gov. Phil Murphy in January.
The Senate Select Committee on Economic Growth, armed with subpoena power, will be chaired by Sen. Bob Smith, D-17th District, and include Sens. Rob Singer, R-30th District; Nilsa Cruz-Perez, D-5th District; Dawn Addiego, D-8th District; Joseph Lagana, D-38th District; Anthony Bucco, R-25th District; and Declan O’Scanlon, R-25th District.
Murphy’s task force has, in recent weeks, scrutinized how businesses with strong ties to insurance executive and South Jersey political figure George Norcross crafted portions of the Grow New Jersey tax breaks to benefit themselves, or unethically took advantage of the program to win the lion’s share of incentives that went to businesses for moving into Camden.
Sweeney’s has also ramped up several actions it took against Murphy’s task force.
In a May 17 letter, Hackensack-based Leon Sokol, counsel for the Senate Democrats, told the task for to preserve any documents, emails and text messages that might be related to the work it has done so far.
“The purpose of the Select Committee is to conduct a review of the State’s current and previous economic development programs and determine the aspects of each program that was successful or unsuccessful,” reads the letter.
“To that end, the Select Committee is empowered to utilize all documentation, testimony or other relevant information that would assist with an analysis of the compliance with the requirements of the program of the recipients of economic program benefits,” it adds.“As the Task Force and the Select Committee are conducting their respective investigations as co-equal branches of government, the Select Committee expects full cooperation with regard to this matter.”
The governor’s office could not be reached for comment on the letter.
A team of lawyers for Norcross and several of the companies the Murphy task force highlighted – including Conner Strong & Buckelew where Norcross is executive chairman, Parker McCay which his Philip brother owns, The Michaels Organization and NFI – are suing the administration to have the task force dissolved.
The legal representation said in a conference call with reporters yesterday that they would be glad to cooperate with Sweeney’s committee, and frequently dismissed the governor’s task force as illegal, overstepping its authority and targeting Camden to settle political scores.
Sweeney has dismissed the Murphy task force as “McCarthyism” and political in nature.
The Senate president’s task force “will evaluate the quality and integrity of existing programs and make recommendations to improve the state’s competitiveness and the oversight of the entire incentive process,” according to a statement from the Senate Democrat’s Office.