Gov. Phil Murphy’s name may appear on tax rebate checks homeowners and New Jerseyans with dependents are set to receive under tax relief provisions in the coming fiscal year’s budget.
“Names on the checks, I don’t know if we’ve made that call yet, so stay tuned on that one,” Murphy said at yesterday’s virus briefing.
There’s historical precedent for politicians’ names appearing on checks, though the practice clearly blurs lines between governmental and political practices, especially in election years.
President Donald Trump’s name appeared on stimulus checks sent out last spring. That drew criticism from Democrats, who charged the president was using federal dollars to boost his re-election campaign against now-President Joe Biden.
Former New Jersey Governor Brendan Byrne had a similar idea. When his administration launched the Homestead Benefits Program, which provides property tax rebates to homeowners, his name appeared on checks — worth about $900 today — homeowners received about a month out from election day.
Then-State Sen. Raymond Bateman, his Republican opponent for the governorship, lost that race by 14 points. He blamed the defeat in part on the Homestead checks bearing Byrne’s name.
“That turned out to be the Achilles’ heel of the election,” Bateman said in a 2007 interview.
Murphy leaving the door open to the practice could expose him to criticism, but it’s not clear that residents receiving rebates of up to $500 or those receiving a larger homestead rebate — this year’s budget updates the program to use property tax bills from 2017 instead of dated ones from 2006 — will care for politicking around a policy that puts money in their pockets.