Gov. Phil Murphy and the state’s legislative leaders, Senate President Nicholas Scutari and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, have reached an agreement to suspend New Jersey’s sales tax on certain back to school items from August 27 to September 5 as inflation issues have become the top concern of voters across the nation.
“This program will cut the cost for the most essential items needed for educational success and help make New Jersey more affordable for our students and families.” said Murphy, who made the announcement in Red Bank with their local lawmaker, State Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Long Branch) at his side.
The proposal will suspend the sales tax on certain back-to-school items, including computers, school supplies, textbooks and sports equipment.
“Make no mistake about it, this is the [legislature’s] direct attack on inflation,” Scutari stated.
But Republicans were quick to criticize to the proposal calling it an “underwhelming gimmick” and calling for long term tax cuts.
“This is a red herring to make people think they aren’t being overtaxed when they are and continue to be with Democrats in charge,” said Assembly Minority leader John DiMaio (R-Hackettstown).
When asked about potential Republican objections to the holiday Murphy said his administration’s policies were aimed at relieving taxes for lower income families.
“While this isn’t technically means tested it certainly is directed at kids and their families when they’re going back to school” said Murphy “Our [property] tax relief is directed toward folks making up to a certain amount of income. That’s the way it should be.”
The cost of preparing for a new academic year “can weigh on a family’s wallet in a big way,” Coughlin stated.
“Our back-to-school holiday lowers the price tag of school items for the up to two million New Jersey families with children in a K-12 school, for our teachers, and for our college students,” said Coughlin, who earlier this year pledged to deliver “the largest tax relief program in our state’s history.”
Gopal, who faces a potentially tough re-election campaign in a politically competitive district, applauded the measure.
“By implementing this sales-tax holiday in the weeks before the first bell rings, we will be offering families a measure of relief from those stresses, by helping them to fill their kids’ back-to-school lists without breaking their household budgets,” he said.
The legislative sponsors will be two South Jersey Democrats with targets on their back: State Sen. Fred Madden (D-Washington Township) and Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (D-Washington Township). Legislative redistricting made the 4th district more competitive.
The proposal is part of the fiscal year 2023 budget and is part of a wider program of tax relief pushed by the governor. Earlier this month the Governor announced his ANCHOR tax relief plan which includes $2 billion in direct property tax rebates going towards 2 million households.
Republicans responded with their own property tax rebate in the “Give it Back” program which the Governor referred to as a “tax break gimmick.” The GOP proposal has failed to advance in either chamber of the state legislature.
“I don’t think the 13 cents in sales tax savings on a $2 box of pencils that Democrats have proposed amounts to substantial relief for New Jersey families. Senate Republicans have proposed $8 billion in real tax relief in our budget plan, including $1,500 in immediate rebates, that we urge our colleagues to act upon,” said Senate Minority Leader Steve Oroho. “And do we really expect people to wait until the very last week to begin to prepare for the upcoming school year. Trenton Democrats have lost touch with reality.”