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Senate President Steve Sweeney. Photo by Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe

Lawmakers send Murphy Grow NJ extension bill

Governor poised to veto EDA tax incentive extension

By Nikita Biryukov, June 20 2019 7:28 pm

State legislators on Thursday sent a bill extending two controversial tax incentive programs run by the Economic Development Authority to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk.

Murphy has promised to veto that bill if it was not coupled with reforms to the programs.

It’s possible that legislative leaders will opt to push for an override — the bill passed with super majorities in both chambers, 66-5 with three abstentions in the Assembly and 28-2 in the Senate — but Senate President Steve Sweeney wouldn’t say if he’d push for an override if Murphy brought out his veto pen.

“The problem with that is he has veto authority over the minutes. He has the executive director. He has the chair of the board. Over the last 18 months ever single project was approved unanimously, under his watch,” Sweeney said. “I guess my question is doesn’t he trust himself? Because he’s in control of it.”

Following the release on an audit by the state Comptroller earlier this year, Murphy formed a task force to investigate abuses of the EDA’s incentive programs.

That panel recently released a preliminary report that cited abuses of the EDA’s programs by firms with ties to South Jersey powerbroker George Norcross, a close Sweeney ally.

Each chamber of the legislature is having committees hold hearings on the EDA. The Senate has drawn a select committee to probe the benefits of the tax incentive programs.

It’s possible the probes sunset on July 1.

Murphy has on more than one occasion said he would veto the extension if it came without any sort of reforms, though he will likely wait 45 days before taking any action on the bill.

Still, Sweeney wasn’t sure that Murphy would keep his word and veto the bill.

“I’m not assuming anything at this point. When you think about it, Brent, he controls the whole agency. He doesn’t have to approve anything,” Sweeney said. “Listen, he doesn’t have to have meetings. He can cancel meetings if he wants, but shutting down the program completely, I wouldn’t want to go into another year without a program if I’m the governor.”

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