Murphy tax break task force finds spotty oversight in incentive program.

 
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Byline: Daniel J. Munoz

A task force the governor convened to scrutinize the state's now-expired, controversial corporate tax break programs released a long-awaited report Thursday, potentially paving the way for the administration and legislative leadership to finally hash out a new set of economic incentives.

The release comes as both sides look to enact a replacement for the two programs the Grow New Jersey corporate tax breaks, and the Economic Redevelopment and Growth gap financing program for residential projects which both expired on July 1, 2019.

Gov. Phil Murphy has been highly skeptical of whether the programs were efficient, and over the past year, the task force honed in how the they may have been crafted with political interests in mind, rather than the state's economic development.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District a critic of the task force said that a similarly-goaled legislative committee he convened will now have to wrap up its own work, and then hopefully progress can begin on negotiations for the next set of incentives.

It is not immediately clear whether this is the final report or hearing of the task force.

'Getting to yes'

The 84-page report highlights a culture in the New Jersey Economic Development Authority of "getting to yes" with companies seeking awards, even if the agency could not determine whether those companies were "at risk" for leaving the state without the tax breaks.

"Companies applying for tax incentives may easily misrepresent their relocation intentions without fear of likely consequences," reads a statement on the report from the law firm Walden, Macht & Haran LLP, the counsel for the task force.

According to the task force's June report, several businesses with close ties to South Jersey political power broker George Norcross, with the advice of law firm Parker McCay where George's brother Philip is a partner, provided bogus data about plans to move out of state if they did not win those incentives.They included Cooper University Health Care where George is board chair, insurance firm Conner Strong and Buckelew where he is an executive, and home-building company The Michaels Organization.

Daniel Fee, a spokesperson for Norcross, did not immediately return a request for comment, neither did Cooper spokesperson Thomas Rubino.

"There is evidence that...

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