The state Legislature’s top Democrat said a veto override is always an option if Gov. Phil Murphy shoots down a bill that would extend the state’s controversial corporate tax breaks for a year.
Those incentives, like the multi-billion dollar Grow New Jersey tax credits, expire in July. Murphy wants to let the program lapse when it expires, even if it means there is nothing in its place.
An Assembly committee is slated to vote on Assembly Bill 5343 on Thursday. The measure would extend Grow NJ for a year while lawmakers and the administration hash out a new set of incentives.
“Well then that’s what’ll happen, you saw with the dark money bill, I can’t get anything done without the governor and the speaker, and it goes the same way for them,” Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District, said in an hour-long editorial meeting with NJBIZ on Tuesday.
“We were going to override the governor yesterday, and there wasn’t a question we had the votes to do it, that’s why the governor agreed to sign the bill,” Sweeney added.
“The status quo on tax incentives is unsustainable and indefensible,” Darryl Isherwood, a spokesperson for the governor’s office, responded in a statement. “Extending bad legislation is not the way to attract business in our state… While the deadline is fast approaching, we believe there is still time to work with the Legislature to pass comprehensive tax incentive reform before the current programs expire.”
Grow NJ has fallen under intense scrutiny from the Murphy administration in recent months. A task force Murphy put together highlighted how several businesses with strong ties to South Jersey powerbroker George Norcross may have benefited from the program, either by providing false information about plans to move out of the state, or crafting the program to benefit certain companies.
Several of those companies have filed a series of legal challenges to shut down the task force, including insurance firm Conner Strong & Buckelew where Norcross is a partner; NFI; The Michaels Organization; Cooper University Health, where Norcross sits on the board; and law firm Parker McCay where George’s brother Philip is a partner and where lawyer Kevin Sheehan allegedly wrote parts of the Grow NJ bill to benefit Norcross-tied companies.
Lawyers for those companies were successful in delaying the release of the task force’s findings which were initially scheduled to be made public Tuesday.
Murphy put the task force together in January at the heels of a state comptroller’s audit which found that the Economic Development Authority – tasked with administering the tax incentive program – conducted inadequate oversight of businesses that received incentives. The audit also suggested the EDA did not thoroughly monitor compliance with tax break requirements.
The governor has, in turn, proposed a set of five new incentives capped at $400 million a year, but has met skepticism from lawmakers including Sweeney.
“The problem with capping incentives is then you’ve tied your hands. Phil Murphy supported Amazon, he supported that, it’s $5 billion. I can’t pursue it if I capped it,” Sweeney said.