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New Jersey Comptroller Philip Degnan. (Photo by Nikita Biryukov)

Comptroller contradicts Murphy on audit

By Nikita Biryukov, February 11 2019 5:37 pm

Correction: A previous version of this article said Gov. Phil Murphy misrepresented the audit of the Economic Development Authority by claiming it found 3,000 jobs were not created. That is not the case. He said, accurately, that 3,000 jobs were not substantiated.

State Comptroller Philip Degnan contradicted many of the ways Gov. Phil Murphy has attempted to portray portions of his office’s audit of tax incentive programs administered by the Economic Development Authority during a joint legislative hearing Monday.

Murphy has at times extrapolated the results of the EDA audit to all of the incentives awarded under the program. Degnan said the sample could not be used in such a way because it was not a “scientific” sample.

Degnan said the sample was constructed to give insight into five of the EDA’s incentive programs and was not built up of proportional chunks of each one.

Further, Degnan said the sample did not apply to all EDA awardees, as the audit sample was made up of 48 cases chosen from 401 awardees who had already received at least one payment under an incentive program. There were more than 1,000 total awardees, he said.

“Today’s hearing provided a more accurate understanding of the impact of the tax incentive programs and helped to refute the inaccurate interpretations of the Comptroller’s report,” State Sen. Nilsa Cruz-Perez (D-Barrington), who chairs the Senate Economic Growth Committee, said in a statement following the hearings.

Murphy has used the audit to push a set of replacements for when the last two active programs examined by the comptroller’s audit sunset in July.

It’s not clear how that strategy will fare after today’s hearings, as Degnan also said his office did not conclude there was wrongdoing on the part of any of the 48 incentive awardees covered by the audit.

The audit, he said, was more focused on the EDA’s management of its incentive programs than it was on the actions of any individual firm or group of firm.

Murphy nominated Degnan, a former executive director of the State Commission of Investigation and the son of former attorney general John Degnan, to a Superior Court judgeship last September.  The nomination has stalled in the Senate.

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