Murphy outlines tax incentive policy in Norcross country

Gov. Phil Murphy and South Jersey power broker George Norcross have been locked in a battle over tax incentives.

The latest salvo came Wednesday as Murphy visited a business incubator in the Cherry Hill Mall, Norcross country, to lay out the broad strokes of a new tax incentive policy.

“Instead of a system that benefits only a few actors and the unsustainable rates that hurt our ability to invest in our core values, let’s enact a new system that works for the broad array of businesses, but even more for the broad array of our communities,” Murphy said.

The business incubator is called 1776. Murphy said it embodies the willingness to take risks that the new economy calls for. He said he’s not writing off tax credits, just proposing a revision.

“Many good companies and many good people played by the rules and used the incentives program the right way, and we value each of them. They should know that New Jersey is better because of their presence in our state,” he said.

Murphy said under Gov. Chris Christie it was all about giving away big tax breaks to large companies. He wants to bring in more medium-sized and small startups and cap the annual total amount of awards at $400 million.

“The simple fact remains that while we were handing out incentives to the tune of roughly $11 billion in total obligations, and at per job award amounts multiple times that of our competitive states, those incentives were returning minimal overall economic benefits,” Murphy said.

Murphy said New Jersey paid five times more per job created or retained than our peer states. The two major incentive programs, Grow NJ and ERG, or Economic Redevelopment and Growth, expire June 30.

Murphy would replace those with two new programs called NJ Forward and NJ Aspire. He called on the Legislature to join him in creating these new programs, but Senate President Steve Sweeney said Wednesday that it’s a little late in the game for new programs and he’d rather extend the existing ones for one year.

“The fact that he’s announcing today his new plan, it’s June 5, knowing that it’s expiring June 30 without including us at all or giving us any information at all, again that’s OK, that’s his right. But does it help get the job done quicker? The answer’s no,” Sweeney said.

Meanwhile, a grand jury subpoena has gone out to the Economic Development Authority for documents, suggesting a criminal investigation. Norcross has sued Murphy and the state for defamation. There are four separate investigations underway or in the works.

Whether it was this, or the Katie Brennan report, Murphy wasn’t taking questions.

It’s unclear why the event was held in Cherry Hill. It could be that 1776 is the best incubator around. Or it could be a way of sticking a finger in the eye of the man for whom Cherry Hill is a backyard — George Norcross.