Christie vetoes bill scrutinizing corporate tax breaks

 Gov. Chris Christie on Monday conditionally vetoed a bill that would calibrate how New Jersey measures whether its corporate tax incentives are effective.

Christie struck passages adding reporting requirements for the economic development programs based on detailed performance indicators, saying they were too narrow.

"While I agree with the sponsors' intent to more closely monitor state tax expenditures so that the citizens of New Jersey reap the maximum reward for every dollar spent, I cannot support the annual evaluation of certain tax expenditures in a vacuum because these projects often have long durations that will not inure benefits until project completion," Christie said in his conditional veto message.

His modifications, he said in the message, 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."

The bill (A939) would have required the state to describe the "specific goals, purposes and objectives" of any tax expenditure, which includes corporate tax breaks. New Jersey has awarded more than $5 billion in incentives under the Christie administration, a sum that opponents say eclipses his predecessors' awards. They've also been the target of several pieces of legislation aimed at improving how the programs are measured and reported.

"While I will give careful consideration to the governor's veto of my proposal to bring increased transparency and accountability to government operations, I must admit that I am deeply disappointed in his actions, to say the least," Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-Burlington) said in a statement.

Opponents of the awards and good government groups threw their support behind a series of bills, including A939, that would combat revenue shortfalls and scrutinize corporate tax breaks. Gordon MacInnes, president of the liberal think tank New Jersey Policy Perspective, for instance, said the state needs to make available better data to assess the programs' successes.

"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," Singleton said. "This bill sought to assure taxpayers that this duty is not taken lightly."


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