Insider NJ

Better Choices for New Jersey to State Legislators: "Pass a Millionaires Tax Now!"

Insider NJ — March 20, 2019

Trenton — As the New Jersey Assembly Budget Committee began its first hearing on Gov. Phil Murphy's proposed FY 2020 Budget, representatives of the Better Choices for New Jersey coalition urged their legislators to deliver long overdue tax fairness for working families by including a millionaires tax in the state budget. Community, labor, and environmental advocates laid out why New Jersey needs a millionaire tax to make smart investments, meet its needs and obligations, and to bring basic fairness to one of the most unequal states in the country.

"A millionaires tax should be a no-brainer, not a point of contention," said Anne Songcayauon, Communications Director of New Jersey Working Families. "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. Democratic legislators who can't get behind a millionaires tax are swimming against the currents of their own party, and defying the will of the voters who elected them in the first place."

Gov. Murphy's proposed FY 2020 Budget includes a millionaires tax that would raise $447 million in new revenue. 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.

"New Jersey lawmakers have no honest policy rationale to reject a millionaires tax," said Brandon McKoy, President of New Jersey Policy Perspective. "It's an important step to improving economic and racial equity, our state needs the revenue, and the evidence makes clear that the rich won't leave if you tax them. After years of estate tax cuts, yacht tax cuts, corporate subsidies, and federal tax cuts primarily targeted to the rich, New Jersey needs real tax fairness more than ever. The time for the millionaires tax is now."

New Jersey ranks among the top ten states for income inequality according to the latest U.S. Census Data. According to estimates from the United Way, more than 40 percent of New Jerseyans are among the working poor. Despite that, New Jersey's working families pay a greater share of their income in taxes than households bringing in $1 million per year.

"New Jersey has one of the highest levels of income inequality in the country where the wealthy contribute a smaller share of their income in taxes than most working families do. The rich have been getting richer, and the poor have been getting poorer. The legislature passed the millionaires tax five times under the Christie administration. There is absolutely no reason not to support the millionaires tax now." said Ann Vardeman, Program Director of New Jersey Citizen Action.

Over the last decade a number of jurisdictions have raised taxes on high-income households and are doing well. California, Connecticut, Maine, New York, and Washington D.C. have all adopted millionaire taxes to meet their needs. In California, a strong millionaires tax has helped right the state's finances and allowed them to significantly expand mental health programs to reduce homelessness, incarceration, and hospitalization.

"During the Chris Christie administration, New Jersey state legislators voted five times to include a millionaires tax hike in the state budget. Now that we have a Democratic governor championing a millionaires tax, we are outraged that legislators have changed their tune," said Amy Goldsmith, State Director of Clean Water Action.

The current call for a millionaires tax comes after nearly a decade of tax cuts, many of which were targeted to New Jersey's wealthy and well connected. New Jersey Policy Perspective estimates that Governor 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.

"In a healthy democracy, everyone pitches in and everyone shares in the benefits," said Sean Spiller, Vice President of New Jersey Education Association. "Unfortunately, all the benefits have been going to the rich while the rest of us have been the only ones pitching in. The millionaires' tax helps restore a healthy balance in New Jersey and sets the stage for a more prosperous future for all of us."

The millionaires tax is broadly popular with the New Jersey electorate. Polls have repeatedly found that upwards of two-thirds of New Jersey voters support raising taxes on people making $1 million per year.

"Governor Murphy's plan to tax the rich is the right move for NJ where great inequities exist between classes," said Kevin Brown, Vice President and New Jersey State Director of 32BJ SEIU. "The millionaires tax was a smart idea for New Jersey last year, but was only partially enacted. Now, we need to see individuals with income levels above the $1,000,000 threshold taxed appropriately. Those who benefit from Trump's tax cuts are not leaving the state and, if they stay, they need to pay their fair share. This sensible taxation will mean increased state revenues that will lift the lower and middle classes, making NJ a more affordable place to live for working families."

Better Choices for New Jersey is a statewide coalition of more than 60 community, labor, environmental and faith groups fighting for a budget that puts working families first. During Governor Murphy's first budget proposal, the coalition was instrumental in leading the fight for a millionaires tax and rein on corporate welfare.

"E""ven though this year's budget overall is better than last year's, we still need to stop these raids and cuts for vital programs that affect our land, our air, our water, and cleanup of toxic sites. DEP's budget must also be restored. To get there, we need to make the wealthy pay their fair share while holding polluters accountable," said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. "Last year's temporary tax hike on the very rich helped bring down raids to the Clean Energy Fund by over 40%, but we need a real millionaire's tax and close tax loopholes for EDA money to finally stop the cuts and diversions."

Better Choices Partner Organizations:

Action Together New Jersey...AFSCME New Jersey...Anti- Poverty Network of New Jersey...Amalgamated Transit Union, NJ State Council...BlueWaveNJ...Clean Water Action... Council of NJ State College Locals - AFT...CWA District 1...CWA Local 1032...Environment New Jersey...Essex Rising...Food & Water Watch, New Jersey Chapter...Health Professionals and Allied Employees...Healthy Schools Now...Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey...Indivisible Congressional District 3...Indivisible Congressional District 5...Indivisible Cranbury...Indivisible Garden State...La Casa de Don Pedro...Latino Action Network..National Association of Social Workers, New Jersey...National Organization for Women, Northern New Jersey Chapter...New Jersey Citizen Action...New Jersey Industrial Union Council...New Jersey Policy Perspective...New Jersey Tenants Organization...New Jersey Work Environment Council...New Jersey Working Families Alliance...Organizing for America Essex...Our United Revolution New Jersey...People Demanding Action, New Jersey Chapter...Progressive Democrats of America, New Jersey Chapter...Save Our Schools March...Sierra Club, New Jersey Chapter...South Orange/Maplewood Dems...STAND Central New Jersey...Union of Rutgers Administrators, AFT Local 1766...V Rev. Peter Anthony Baktis, Mother of God Orthodox Church - Princeton...Westfield 20/20

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