This article was updated with comment from Gov. Phil Murphy at 4:22 p.m.
Gov. Phil Murphy’s name, but not his signature, will appear on tax rebate checks the state will send to certain New Jerseyans with at least one dependent child starting this Friday.
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The checks, worth up to $500 based on residents’ tax bills, were passed along with the coming fiscal year’s budget after Murphy and legislative leaders agreed to the rebates as part of a deal to enact a millionaire’s tax last year.
“By asking those at the very top to pay their fair share, we are able to provide tax relief to working families,” Murphy says in a message that will appear on the checks. “I want to I want to recognize legislative leadership and legislators in both chambers for their tremendous partnership. New Jersey is built on the hard work of our middle class. This rebate shows that when we make New Jersey fairer, we make New Jersey stronger — and everyone benefits”
The governor last week said he was unsure whether his name or signature would appear on checks mailed to residents through the rebate program or the Homestead Benefit Program. This year’s budget updated the latter to use property tax bills from 2017 instead of 15-year-old ones from 2006.
Politico New Jersey was first to report Murphy’s name would appear on the rebate checks. They’ll be signed by State Treasurer Liz Muoio and Office of Management and Budget Acting Director Lynn Azarchi.
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.
Jack Ciattarelli, this year’s Republican candidate for governor, moved early to head off 2021’s election-year checks.
“Four years ago, @bought the election with his money. This time he thinks he can win using yours,” he said on Twitter. “Hey Phil: You don’t make New Jersey fairer or stronger by returning to hardworking New Jerseyans money you never needed to take or borrow in the first place.”ombmtc