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Assemblyman John McKeon (D-West Orange). Photo by Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe

McKeon would back budget without millionaire’s tax

Early millionaire’s tax backer the fifth to moderate his stance

By Nikita Biryukov, June 06 2019 1:03 pm

Assemblyman John McKeon, who was among the first legislators to back Gov. Phil Murphy’s proposal for a millionaire’s tax, on Thursday told the New Jersey Globe he was willing to vote for a budget that did not include the measure.

“I’m a member of the budget committee and a part of the team, and I’m a great believer as a part of that that when the speaker puts a budget before us that it deserves support,” McKeon said. “I’m 100% for the millionaire’s tax. I think it’s the right thing to do. I’ll argue from here until the cows come home that it won’t have any negative impact and it’s fair and equitable. That being said, if there’s a budget that’s presented by the speaker that doesn’t include it, that doesn’t mean that I won’t support it.”

McKeon’s stance — one that he says he’s held since he endorsed the millionaire’s tax in March — will make it more difficult for Murphy to pass a millionaire’s tax.

So far, 11 members of the Assembly have said they’d back the proposal, but that number has shrunk over the last several days.

Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly, another early backer of the millionaire’s tax, on Tuesday told the New Jersey Globe he believed the state could pass a budget without any tax hikes.

On Wednesday, Assemblyman Gary Schaer said he would back the measure if it was posted for a vote but added that he was willing to back a budget that did not include a millionaire’s tax.

Two other members of the Assembly that back the millionaire’s tax, Nicholas Chiaravalloti (D-Bayonne) and Angela McKnight (D-Jersey City), have said they did not believe the measure had enough support and said they would be willing to back a budget that did not include the tax hike.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how many votes Murphy has unless Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin puts the millionaire’s tax up for a vote.

At the moment, it’s unlikely Coughlin or Senate President Steve Sweeney will post the measure in either chamber, though that could change if more legislators publicly — and uncompromisingly — back the proposal.

But that prospect is looking less and less likely as more lawmakers moderate their support for the millionaire’s tax.

Let me be unambiguous on this. I am 100% in favor of taxing income at the level as proposed over a million dollars … So, no good arguments as to why we shouldn’t do it,” McKeon said. “That being said, we’re talking about $400 million in a budget that’s got $36 billion. To say my vote will be predicated on that and that’s my line in the sand, that’s just not a responsible thing to do.”

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