Camden Democrats want Gov. Phil Murphy to stay out of their city.
Three of them — Mayor Frank Moran, Council President Curtis Jenkins and State Sen. Nilsa Cruz Perez — on Friday said Murphy wasn’t welcome there until he stops attacking the city.
“Governor Phil Murphy is swooping into Camden to attend a small group event out of the eye of the public, but he won’t come here to talk to the leaders of the city about why he’s attacking it or the potentially devastating impacts his attacks could have on the amazing progress Camden is making,” said Moran said.
“That’s why it’s so important that he understand from those of us who were elected to represent the people of Camden a simple message: He’s not welcome here unless and until he stops attacking the City and talks to the people of Camden and the leaders who were elected to represent them,” he added.
Murphy himself has not attacked the city, but a task force he convened to investigate abuses of tax incentives meted out by the state Economic Development Authority has honed in on four Camden firms with ties to South Jersey power broker George Norcross, who makes Camden his seat of power.
At its second public meeting earlier this month, the task force revealed oddities in tax incentive applications submitted by companies with ties to Norcross, including Cooper Health Services, whose board of trustees the kingmaker chairs.
Among other things, the companies claimed they were considering moving jobs out of state to secure larger awards under the Grow NJ program, which is scheduled to sunset in July.
Portions of the firms’ applications suggested they never intended to leave New Jersey.
“As Camden’s representative in Trenton, I will continue to strongly advocate for the city and ensure that legislative and public initiatives originating in Trenton will benefit Camden just as they do North Jersey communities,” Cruz-Perez said. “And if Phil Murphy is willing to work with us toward those goals, great. But if not, he shouldn’t come here.”
The incentives are at the center of a growing feud between Murphy and South Jersey Democrats, including Senate President Steve Sweeney, with ties to Norcross.
Murphy is set to attend an event at the LEAP Academy on Inclusive Growth.
There were no events on his public schedule for Friday.
“I am a little stunned that Governor Murphy would come to Camden to discuss inclusive growth for a simple reason: He hasn’t offered a plan for Camden on anything, much less inclusive growth,” Jenkins said. “From the first days of his administration, we have wanted to have a partner in the Governor’s office, just as we have with previous governors. But instead he’s tried to slash funding for Camden projects and even held up already approved funding. He’s never wanted to be a partner, and frankly, it hurts our city and its people.”
The programs’ proponents argue that tax incentives have been pivotal for the resurgence of what was once the most dangerous city in the United States.
Detractors claim companies acting in bad faith have fleeced tax payers out of millions of dollars.
Murphy has said he has not communicated with the task force since it was created.
The panel, led by former New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Ron Chen, has made criminal referrals to the state Attorney General’s office.
Since then, Sweeney has announced the creation of a special committee to investigate the programs’ benefits.
He would not rule out having the panel investigate Murphy’s task force on Monday.