Business Report Plus: NJ still grappling with response to GOP tax reform

Rhonda Schaffler, Correspondent | February 23, 2018
  • Senate President forms Economic and Fiscal Policy Working Group
  • Former state treasurer skeptical of tax deduction workarounds
  • Second tax reform Lunch and Learn to be held Wednesday, Feb. 28
  • Hard Rock moves ahead with plans to open by the summer
  • Toys R Us plans more store closings

After a lot of talk about how the new federal tax law might impact New Jersey, a high-level working group has been set up to take a big picture view of taxes in the state. Senate President Steve Sweeney this week announced the members of the Economic and Fiscal Policy Working Group, which has been tasked with evaluating the impact of federal tax law changes on the economy, jobs and homes values in the state.

“This is not an academic exercise,” explained Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald, one of the bipartisan leaders of the working group. “We are committed to championing the tough measures needed to make New Jersey competitive, affordable and economically strong.”

Beyond looking at the impact from federal tax reform, the group will review state tax structure and fiscal policy. Among the tough topics slated for review, according a press release issued by the Office of Senate Democrats: the fairness and efficiency of our state and local tax system; county school districts; K-12 regionalization; options to control property taxes; the stabilization of the pension system; and an assessment of the causes and extent of out-migration.

It’s a tall order, but there are some heavy hitters in the group, which includes economists, tax experts and fiscal policy experts. In addition to Assemblyman Greenwald, the group will also be led by Senate Budget Chair Paul Sarlo and Sen. Steve Oroho.

“Everything is going to be on the table,” said Sarlo.

One final thought on the new federal tax law comes from Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff, a lawyer and former State Treasurer of New Jersey who served under the Christie administration. In an interview with NJTV, Sidamon-Eristoff warned against the idea of creating a workaround for the loss of state and local tax deductions. Some lawmakers have been talking about creating charitable funds for residents to donate money to, in order to fund schools and services. That way they could claim a charitable deduction on their taxes. But Sidamon-Eristoff doesn’t think that will fly.

We’ll be talking taxes again next week during our second Lunch and Learn program. We’re teaming up with the New Jersey Society of CPAs for a live show that you can see on the NJTV Facebook page. During the show, I’ll be speaking with two New Jersey tax experts, who will answer your tax questions as you prepare to file your returns this April. You can submit your tax questions on our Facebook page, or fill out this form. The New Jersey Society of CPAs has graciously committed to making sure every question gets answered, either live on Facebook or via an comment back to you. We hope you take advantage of this opportunity.

We had a brief spell of spring-like weather in New Jersey this week, and companies are already gearing up for a pick-up in seasonal business. Home Depot announced it will hire more than 1,600 workers for its 60 New Jersey stores ahead of spring, which is its busy season.

Meantime, Atlantic City’s Hard Rock casino continues to hire ahead of its planned summer opening, and is reaching out to the city’s minority community. According to the Associated Press, more than 100 area residents attended a meeting with the casino’s top management this week to hear how the Hard Rock wants to build community ties. “Give us a chance,” Jim Allen, the CEO of Hard Rock International said at the meeting. “We have to make money. There can’t be animosity if the casino makes money. But we have to give back.” The casino is planning to train its employees’ children for careers in the industry, and also wants to give workers perks, like discounted concert tickets.

Finally, Wayne-based Toys R Us continues to struggle its way through the bankruptcy process, and unfortunately more workers may be at risk of losing their jobs. The Wall Street Journal reported this week there could be significant layoffs of corporate staff, along with at least 200 more store closings.