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Assembly candidate Lisa Mandelblatt. Photo by Nikita Biryukov.

Gunderman, Mandelblatt not ready to back millionaire’s tax

Gov. Phil Murphy gets a B from Assembly candidates

By Nikita Biryukov, May 19 2019 1:42 pm

Assembly candidate Lisa Mandelblatt  and Stacey Gunderman  aren’t ready to back Gov. Phil Murphy’s proposal for a millionaire’s tax.

“The loss of The SALT deduction has made it really hard here for folks — and for folks that you would normally think can afford to pay a little bit more taxes,” Mandelblatt said. “So, the millionaire’s tax is one of those things that I don’t see it in black and white right now, and I realize they’re going to have to take a black and white vote, but we don’t.”

Murphy has sought to impose a tax on the state’s high earners since before he took office.

The proposal was central to his platform on the campaign trail, and though Democrats in the legislature repeatedly passed millionaire’s tax bills that were vetoed under Gov. Chris Christie, support for it among sitting Democrats has waned.

Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin have cited the cap on state and local tax deductions imposed by a Republican tax plan passed in 2017 as a reason for the change of heart, though that plan also included significant tax cuts for the country’s high earners.

The stance may prove a politically-savvy one given the 21st legislative district’s composition.

Put simply, Republicans have held power here for a long time, and the district is one of the wealthiest in the state.

As a rule, voters don’t like tax hikes. They especially dislike tax hikes that affect them.

Despite their reluctance to back one of Murphy’s core policy issues, the two candidates gave the governor relatively high marks for his first year and a half in office.

“I would say he’s got a B. No plus, no minus,” Mandelblatt said. “I think the fact that some of the really tough issues, and I don’t know whether that falls on his lap or it’s just the problem is so much bigger than any of us realize.”

They both praised Murphy for restoring state funding to Planned Parenthood that was blocked under former Gov. Chris Christie, among other issues.

Still, the rating, with Gunderman also gave, is far from perfect, and though both candidates say they docked points because there was still work left to do, moderating praise for Murphy may prove wise.

Republican candidates elsewhere in the state have already honed in on criticism of the governor as a workable campaign tactic, and there’s no reason to believe Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) and Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz (R-Summit) won’t do the same.

“I would agree with a B, and it’s because there’s still issues that we need to change and to effect, and there’re conversations that still need to be had,” Gunderman said. “Not all of our problems have been solved. We still have issues. You’ve always got to leave yourself some room to grow if you haven’t achieved all of your goals.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story attributed a quote to Gunderman that should have been Mandelblatt.

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