Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday defended against a charge leveled by some Camden Democrats that his past support for tax incentives made his opposition to the Economic Development Authority’s current programs hypocritical.
“I’m not heck no on tax incentives. The point is they gotta be done right. They have to be part of a broader economic development strategy,” Murphy said at a press conference on an unrelated matter. “God knows, as we saw in the press this week and the hearing yesterday, they have to be monitored, they have to be transparent, I believe they need to be capped. It needs to be a real program with adult supervision.”
At the second hearing of the task force Murphy convened to investigate two EDA incentive programs, current and former EDA employees were walked through oddities in incentive applications filed by four firms with ties to Democratic power broker George Norcross, whose seat of power lies in Camden.
Among other things, Cooper University Health Care submitted an application that said none of the firm’s New Jersey jobs were in jeopardy and said the hospital system was still determining out-of-state locations to move to.
Cooper submitted a letter of intent from a Philadelphia landlord less than a week before its application was approved despite letters of intent generally being required at the start of the process.
The hospital system’s application was processed in 32 days.
David Lawyer, an EDA staffer, told the task force applications that get through the EDA’s screening process generally do so in four to nine months.
Four Camden Democrats — Mayor Frank Moran, Council President Kevin Jenkins, State Sen. Nilsa Cruz-Perez and Freeholder Louis Cappelli — said Thursday that Murphy was unfairly focusing on Camden and ignoring abuses of EDA incentives in North Jersey.
“We find it surprising and hypocritical that Governor Murphy has happily accepted $165 million in tax credits when he was on the management committee at the huge and lucrative firm, Goldman Sachs, and was fully prepared to give away $5 billion to the planet’s richest company, Amazon, but has feverishly insinuated without proof that irregularities exist for tax programs that would help Camden,” the Democrats said. “It must have been okay for him and Amazon because he was moving his firm to Jersey City and Amazon was considering moving to Newark.”
The governor pushed back on claims that he had a bone to pick with Camden.
“Let me just say this: I am a huge believer in Camden. Camden is on a list… Newark, Trenton, Paterson — Atlantic city in its own right — and certainly Camden. As they go, New Jersey goes,” Murphy said. “So we are big believers, backers and supporters in Camden and its future, period. And there’s an enormous amount of evidence that supports that, but I want Camden to work for everybody.”