Christie conditionally vetoes tax break report legislation

Governor Christie on Tuesday conditionally vetoed a bill that would require New Jersey to more thoroughly assess the effectiveness of the programs that have awarded companies billions of dollars in tax breaks in recent years.

Christie said in his veto statement that although he agreed with the intent of the law, "I cannot support the annual evaluation of certain tax expenditures in a vacuum." He explained further that "these projects often have long durations that will not inure benefits until project completion."

The veto comes amid heightened scrutiny of the state's incentive programs, which awarded tax breaks of about $2 million in 2014 alone even as the state has struggled to create jobs and has lagged the nation it is post-recession economic recovery.

The bill, A-939, sharpens the language of an existing law that requires the state to prepare an annual report on the "tax expenditures," or breaks awarded that reduced state tax revenue in the previous year.

The bill would have required state officials to provide "specific goals, purposes, and objectives" for each program, and "determine through detailed performance indicators whether each state tax expenditure has been effective."

Christie's veto, however, stripped out many of the reporting elements and details required under the bill. Christie said his modifications to the bill "would take a more holistic view of a project or investment rather than conjuring a series of performance indicators that may skew the actual benefit assessment."

Assemblyman Troy Singleton, D-Burlington, said he was "deeply disappointed" with the governor's action.

"State tax expenditures and preferences are intended to benefit the public by encouraging investment, job creation and economic development, and the state has a fundamental duty to ensure that they achieve these ends," he said. "This bill sought to assure taxpayers that this duty is not taken lightly."

Under state law, if the legislature does nothing in response to the conditional veto, the bill dies. The bill would become law with the changes required by the veto if both houses of the legislature approve it and the governor signs it.


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