Business leaders have been asking Gov. Phil Murphy to join about half of U.S. states and use some of the state’s $6.2 billion in federal COVID relief to replenish the New Jersey Unemployment Trust Fund, which was decimated by historic levels of job loss during the pandemic.
But instead, the governor has allowed a tax increase on employers to happen, said State Sen. Michael Testa on Monday.
“Late Friday, Governor Murphy increased the employer payroll tax by $252 million despite New Jersey having one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation at 7.3%,” Testa said in a Monday statement. “Increasing employer taxes 20% now was the height of bad policy and arrogance. The tax increase was avoidable. But the Governor demonstrated he doesn’t care and symbolically sniveled ‘Let them eat cake’ to employers from his $10 million Italian villa.”
Murphy is been vacationing in Italy, but his spokesperson said Monday that any expense over $10 million must be made with the Legislature, as per budget language.
“Even Marie Antoinette’s cake is preferable to choking on an avoidable $252 million tax increase,” Testa said.
Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, D-Atlantic, said it’s the last thing businesses need.
“As a small business owner, I know first-hand how difficult it has been to operate during the pandemic,” said Mazzeo, who owns a produce store in Northfield. “We need to do everything we can to support businesses that employ our neighbors and families.”
Mazzeo was second prime sponsor on A4853, he said, which made the full $940 million increase gradual.
“It would have gone up dramatically if we didn’t put this bill up,” Mazzeo said.
Mazzeo did not say if he has advocated for use of federal funds instead.
To replenish the fund, more tax increases will kick in over the next two years, according to the Murphy plan. Testa said he will keep trying to get the governor to use federal dollars to avoid future tax hikes.
“Our unemployment rate is among the sixth worst in the U.S. and taxing employers isn’t going to help,” Testa said.
Michelle Brunetti Post