NJ Assembly bill would increase corporate tax break transparency

SHOW US THE MONEY: Assemblyman Troy Singleton wants information about special tax breaks from New Jersey’s Economic Development Authority to be posted online.

These tax breaks, designed to create and retain New Jersey jobs by encouraging investment and expansion, are a growing industry in the Garden State, NJ Spotlight reported . The EDA has awarded over $6 billion in tax credits since Gov. Chris Christie took office in 2010.

By comparison, the authority awarded tax breaks totaling less than $2 billion from 2000-2010.

According to the authority’s annual reports, the EDA approved $2.1 billion in tax incentives in 2014 alone, claiming that these tax breaks would “leverag[e] over $1.5 billion of investment in New Jersey’s economy, generating more than 4,500 new, permanent jobs and 4,435 construction jobs, and retaining 3,110 jobs that were at risk of leaving the state.”

New Jersey ranked 48th in job growth in 2014.

Singleton’s bill stipulates that “a public or private not-for-profit, non-partisan entity” perform the review, although Singleton himself said he favors Rutgers University’s Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy , which has already begun working with the EDA to devise better standards of evaluation.

The bill calls for a report for each company within three months of the bill’s passage, followed by reports every three years until the tax credit expires.

The report would be required to include the amount of foregone tax revenue, a cost-benefit analysis and an assessment of the investment, job creation and job retention resulting from the tax break.

Gov. Chris Christie’s massive expansion of tax breaks has not remedied New Jersey’s unemployment rate , which stood at 6.5 percent in April compared to 5.4 percent for the country as a whole. Also,  according to New Jersey Policy Perspective , a nonpartisan economic think tank, “as many as 9 out of 10 hiring and investment decisions subsidized with tax breaks would have occurred even without the subsidy.”

Christie, who vetoed a similar bill from Singleton in May, has not been particularly well-known for his transparency. Last month, New Jersey Watchdog reported that “the governor has often forced New Jersey Watchdog and other news outlets to go to court to win release of public records the governor and his administration have refused to disclose.”

Singleton, however, still has faith in the power of tax breaks to create and retain jobs, even as he fights for greater transparency.

“As a supporter of tax incentives in general as a tool to spur economic growth, it is essential that greater levels of transparency and accountability are in place to ensure the longevity of our economic incentives programs,” he told Watchdog.

Some critics have accused Christie of using the tax breaks to bolster his presidential campaign by creating jobs and investment in the short term without any concern for the long term fiscal consequences.

This story was updated with a quote from Singleton after initial publication. 

[Original article]