Governor Defends His Goldman-Era Support for New Jersey Tax Break

(Bloomberg) -- New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said fellow Democrats are unfairly criticizing his support for Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s tax break to move to Jersey City 16 years ago, when he was a senior director of the firm.

The state’s $11 billion tax-incentives program is the subject of an inquiry by a panel of Murphy appointees after a January comptroller’s report found evidence that some companies may have improperly qualified for awards. At a May 2 hearing in Newark, Murphy panel members cited media reports linking millions of tax-incentive dollars to entities connected to insurance broker George Norcross, a Democratic political boss and booster of Camden, one of the nation’s poorest cities.

Governor Defends His Goldman-Era Support for New Jersey Tax Break

“It needs to be a real program with adult supervision,” Murphy, a Democrat who took office in January 2018, said at an appearance in Manhattan.

Given Murphy’s Goldman-era support for corporate tax breaks, it’s hypocritical of him to lead “a relentless attack on Camden businesses that participated in the state’s tax-credit programs,” some Democrats said.

Murphy in 2003 “pleaded with then-Gov. Jim McGreevey to not cancel $165 million in tax credits for his beloved Goldman Sachs,” said a statement issued after the hearing by Camden County Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli Jr., Camden City Council President Curtis Jenkins and state Senator Nilsa Cruz Perez, who cited Star-Ledger reporting.

Murphy rejected the comparison between his former advocacy for Goldman and his critique of the current tax-credits program. Whistle-blowers have said the abuses include companies lying about plans to move out of state and the submission of inflated employment figures.

The governor called himself a big believer in Camden, though he wants the program “to work for everybody, not just some of the folks.”

“I’m not, ‘Heck, no’ on incentives,” Murphy said. “They have to be part of a broader economic-development strategy. God knows, as we saw in the press this week and the hearing yesterday, they have to be monitored, they have to be transparent.”

The state support that Murphy had backed while at Goldman helped construct the firm’s office tower built at a cost of more than $1 billion. It helped anchor Jersey City’s Hudson River waterfront as an economic powerhouse across from Manhattan.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.