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Overwhelming Public Support For New Jersey Millionaire Tax: POLL

Gov. Phil Murphy's "millionaire tax" has met with major pushback from state lawmakers, including those from his own political party.

Patch — April 4, 2019

By Eric Kiefer, Patch Staff

About seven out of 10 New Jersey residents are in favor of raising income taxes for the state's millionaires, according to a poll released Thursday.

On April 4, researchers from Rutgers University's Eagleton Institute and Fairleigh Dickinson University announced the results of a joint poll on Gov. Phil Murphy's proposed "millionaires tax." Their findings? Public support is just as strong as it was a year and a half ago.

According to researchers, 46% of New Jersey residents are "strongly" in favor of raising taxes on households making more than $1 million annually. About 26% "somewhat" support the idea, while only 14% strongly or somewhat oppose the governor's proposal.

The overwhelming popular support shown in the poll could be interpreted as a "major win" for Murphy... at least in the public's eyes, said Ashley Koning, assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.

However, New Jersey residents are still largely undecided about Murphy's overall performance as governor, researchers added.

"Half (50 percent) believe he hasn't yet made any significant accomplishments. More approve (52 percent) than disapprove (43 percent) of his job performance, but support is not overwhelming. In fact, disapproval has increased by double digits since last fall."

During the poll, researchers contacted 1,203 adults between March 7 and 22. Of those adults, 621 were contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones and 582 through an online probability-based panel. The combined sample has a margin of error of +/-3.7 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish. The full analysis, along with the poll's questions and tables, can be found on the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll website and the FDU Poll website.

MURPHY'S 'MILLIONAIRES TAX': WHAT'S THE DEAL?

Gov. Murphy's proposed 2020 budget includes a tax on anyone making more than $1 million a year.

The proposal — a centerpiece of Murphy's campaign platform — was only partially enacted in fiscal year 2019 in an effort to avoid a budget shutdown. Last year, state lawmakers settled on a higher income tax rate for earnings over $5 million. But this time around, Murphy wants to extend the 10.75 percent rate down to earnings over $1 million, which currently are taxed at a rate of 8.97 percent, NJ Spotlight reported.

The governor's latest proposal would raise $447 million in new revenue, according to Better Choices for New Jersey.

According to Anne Songcayauon of New Jersey Working Families, instating a true millionaire tax is a "no-brainer."

"New Jerseyans understand that the current tax system is rigged against them and for the wealthy, which is why they overwhelmingly support a millionaires tax," Songcayauon recently said.

But Murphy's proposal has met with major pushback from state lawmakers... including those from his own political party.

According to Better Choices for New Jersey:

"Democratic legislators passed a millionaires tax five times during the Christie Administration, but each time the measure was vetoed by the governor. Now, many of the same Democratic legislators have so far refused to back Murphy's proposed millionaires tax despite the fact that two-thirds of voters support the measure."

Some opponents of the millionaire tax have claimed it will make already high taxes in New Jersey even more unbearable, causing wealthy residents to flee the state.

In March, New Jersey Business and Industry Association (NJBIA) Vice President of Government Affairs Andrew Musick called for no tax increases in his testimony on the FY 2020 state budget before the Senate Budget Committee.

"NJBIA has long opposed an increase in the state's GIT for those earning over $1 million, as it will directly impact companies that provide jobs and help drive New Jersey's economy," Musick said. "This includes the businesses which represent approximately 10 percent of all GIT revenue reported by companies in 2016."

Musick said that over the past 12 years, New Jersey has experienced a net loss of nearly $25 billion in adjusted gross income, as businesses and residents look toward more tax-friendly states.

"Applying the top GIT rate to those earning $1 million will make the state less competitive within our region, especially our top two outmigration states of Pennsylvania and New York," he charged.

Despite the criticism, many New Jersey progressives have continued the push for a true millionaire tax.

Some experts have said that the fear of "millionaire tax flight" is a myth. According to Sheila Reynertson of New Jersey Policy Perspective:

"Worry that wealthy taxpayers will flee New Jersey should be dismissed by peer-reviewed research findings, the vast majority of which show that raising the state income tax has a negligible effect on relocation decisions. The number of New Jersey taxpayers with incomes over $500,000 has consistently grown even as income tax rates on wealthy households have been increased twice. The share of these taxpayers grew an astonishing 450 percent, between 1994 and 2016, the most recent year for which data is publicly available. Millionaire tax flight is a myth, and that fact doesn't go away when lawmakers hear anecdotal stories from estate planners."

While the Garden State spins its wheels on the idea of a millionaires tax, the state continues to give out massive subsidies to wealthy corporations, activists point out.

New Jersey Policy Perspective recently estimated that former governor Chris Christie and lawmakers in both parties gave away $13 billion in tax cuts, including an estate tax cut, a yacht tax cut and $11 billion in tax subsidies to corporations through the state Economic Development Authority.

"The wealthy contribute a smaller share of their income in taxes than most working families do," Ann Vardeman of New Jersey Citizen Action recently said. "The rich have been getting richer, and the poor have been getting poorer."

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