Businesses revel in reversal of Pennsylvania tax agreement

CAMDEN -- In this city directly opposite Philadelphia -- where one can cross state lines by walking over a bridge -- South Jersey business officials and leading Democrats reveled in Gov. Chris Christie's recent reversal that will keep a 40-year-old income tax agreement with the Keystone State.

Thursday's gathering at Campbell Soup Company's Camden headquarters addressed the tax reciprocity agreement and its projected negative fiscal impact opponents said would have affected both New Jersey and Pennsylvania residents.

"The bottom line is businesses want predictability," state Senate President Stephen Sweeney said Thursday, adding that the deal would have caused "enormous hardships" on workers and employers.

The Republican governor had proposed doing away with the agreement to reap $180 million in additional income from Pennsylvania residents. The deal would have seen Pennsylvania residents paying New Jersey's income tax that tops out at 8.97 percent, while Garden State residents would have paid Pennsylvania's flat rate of 3.07 percent.

Among the companies that previously expressed concern with the move were Campbell Soup Co., -- where 40 percent of its workforce hails from Pennsylvania -- Subaru and Destination Maternity. According to U.S. census figures, approximately 120,000 New Jersey residents commute to Pennsylvania for work and vice versa.

"Ultimately, for Campbell, this was about our ability to attract and retain the most talented and effective workforce possible in an increasingly competitive environment. And for us in Camden, it's also about attracting and keeping investment and jobs in the city and region that's been our home since 1869," said Kelly D. Johnston, vice president of government affairs for Campbell Soup Company.

Earlier this month, Christie reversed course after finding $200 million in savings via a first-of-its-kind public worker union-backed health care bill that Sweeney authored and has since been signed into law.

"This action will save state taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in health care benefit costs, and I'm proud my administration was again able to work with elected officials from both sides of the aisle and many labor union representatives to achieve these savings," Christie said in a November statement.

Other institutions present Thursday included Destination Maternity Corporation, Subaru of America, Inc. and state Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald and Assemblyman Troy Singleton.

"We believe the agreement is good for Camden and we are pleased it is staying. Without it our hiring pool would have been smaller and we would have had to reconsider our position with regard to our future headquarters location in the city," Subaru spokesman Michael McHale said.

Sweeney thanked the governor on Thursday for reaching across the aisle and saving the tax reciprocity agreement.

"Your taking that money out of the economy," Sweeney said of the additional taxes that residents would have incurred and, in turn, not spent locally. "It's going to fund government."

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