Legislative leaders talk SALT deduction at annual NJ League conference

The state’s political class, power brokers and deal makers have converged on the casino capitol to position themselves for a new chapter in state government with property taxes topping the agenda. Things are complicated this year by the potential impact of the congressional Republicans’ tax reform plan on New Jersey. The four legislative leaders, unsolicited, each panned to the Republican tax reform plan being discussed in Washington. Chief Political Correspondent Michal Aron moderated a panel Thursday where all four said that eliminating the state and local tax deduction, the so-called SALT deduction, would be devastating for New Jersey.

Sen. Steve Sweeney: What they’re about to do, at least what I’m reading, they’re going to do like a state like New Jersey, is take all your exemptions away. It’s going to devastate and destroy the state. It’s going to be billions of dollars coming out of states like New Jersey to go to states that don’t come close to putting the dollars in that they put in. I wouldn’t want to be a Republican running for the next several years if they pass this. It was a warning, Michael.

Aron: How many of you actually believe that it’s going to become law?

Sweeney: I’m just listening to what they’re saying. They say they’re doing it. They have the votes and they’re moving it forward.

Aron: Republicans here on the panel, do you think this is going to pass, eliminating the state and local tax deductions?

Assemblyman Jon Bramnick: I hope not. I hope that our representatives stand up in Washington. This is something we have to fight against. It’s not just concern about my own district. What you want is fairness and fairness should be across the country. No state should be punished, whether it’s us or New York or California, we should not be punished. At this point, the way it’s drafted, we get punished. To me, I will do whatever I can as a state representative to tell my representatives that I’m a big ‘no’ on this.

Sen. Tom Kean, Jr.: The forum needs to happen, but the current SALT deductions need to be kept. The current status for state and local tax deductions need to happen in the state of New Jersey. In the final product, that’s important for home values, important for families, it’s important for people who are investing.

Aron: What do you think is going to happen?

Kean Jr.: I think in New Jersey, New York, California the state and local tax deduction will be preserved. I think there will be reform that will go through, but I think it’s a very important issue for lots of people throughout the state.

Assemblyman Craig Coughlin: These are going to be devastating to the people of New Jersey. I think in a larger sense it’s a chance for the Republican party, because if you want to be in charge, you have to be in charge for everyone and you can’t punish people. There are Republicans who represent New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, and even in districts where you probably don’t think about it. I’m sure there are places in Oklahoma and Arkansas where their constituents are going to pay a price for this.

Another topic was the millionaire’s tax. Governor-elect Phil Murphy wants to bring it back. Last week, incoming speaker Craig Coughlin was noncommittal on that. Today [Wednesday], he reminded this audience that he voted for it five times in the Legislature only to see it vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie. Thursday, Governor-elect Phil Murphy will deliver his first major address since Election Day.