The task force appointed by Gov. Phil Murphy to scrutinize the how state’s tax breaks are awarded said April 12 that it made a criminal referral and uncovered “evidence of unregistered lobbying on behalf of special interests,” but provided no details.
“As we have said, we are going to follow the facts in a search for the truth,” Ronald Chen, chair of the task force and dean of Rutgers Law School, said in a Friday statement. “Whether that means recertifying companies, seeking voluntary payments and terminations, or making referrals, we plan to be thorough, objective and efficient.”
Walden Macht & Haran LLP could not be reached for comment; a spokesperson for the governor’s office declined to comment.
Murphy formed the task force in January following an audit that month which found inadequate oversight of the Grow New Jersey tax break program.
During the task force’s hearing last month, a whistleblower and former Jackson Hewitt employee alleged that the financial services company cheated the state out of $2.7 million of tax breaks by lying about plans to move out of New Jersey.
The January audit, coupled with the allegations about Jackson Hewitt, prompted a letter delivered Tuesday to the EDA board signed by several dozen social justice groups, calling for the entire board – mostly appointed by former Gov. Chris Christie appointees – to step down.
Grow NJ was expanded in 2013 under Christie, and his administration has been the main focus of Murphy’s criticisms of the tax break program. Murphy wants to let Grow NJ expire in July and replace it with a set of five new economic incentive programs, capped at $400 million each year.
The task force is scheduled to meet again on May 2 in Newark.