LiUNA Gov. Phil Murphy

Gov. Phil Murphy speaks during the Laborers' International Union of North America Eastern Region conference at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City on May 20,2019.

ATLANTIC CITY — Gov. Phil Murphy continued his attack against the state’s controversial tax incentive program Monday, telling labor leaders that reform is needed to protect both taxpayers and union jobs.

Speaking at the Laborers’ International Union of North America Eastern Region conference at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City, Murphy defended his task force’s investigation into the state Economic Development Authority and its use of more than $11 billion in tax credits.

A damning audit of the authority — ordered by Murphy when he took office and released earlier this year — found the tax credits were routinely awarded to politically connected firms and failed to either create or retain an adequate number of jobs relative to the incentives provided.

Murphy, a Democrat, and South Jersey power broker George Norcross have recently engaged in a public dispute over the program’s effectiveness in Camden and the legality of the task force investigation. Norcross, an ally of Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney, claimed that Murphy’s task force investigation was designed to “strike back” at South Jersey Democrats.

“There’s a lot being said by others about my position on incentives,” Murphy said. “And, unfortunately, a lot of what’s being said is wrong.”

The governor said he believed in “having a strong and smartly designed program” to draw new businesses to New Jersey and “keep those already here from moving out.”

“This debate is not about whether or not New Jersey has an economic incentives program, but what kind of program we have,” he said. “My concern has been with the recent awarding of incentives that are far, far out of alignment with those being offered by our neighboring and competitors states in terms of the price we are paying, and which are draining the state of revenues we need to make even bigger investments in infrastructure and other job-creating areas of our economy.”

Appealing to the labor crowd, Murphy said he has proposed new incentive programs that will focus on “multi-faceted and community-building projects,” which will “put people to work in good, union jobs.”

Murphy said his view was that incentives are a “critical piece of the puzzle, just not the entire picture.”

“New Jersey will have a robust and competitive tax incentive program in place,” Murphy said. “But we will make sure it works for our communities, for the men and women on the job, and for our state’s overall economic future.”

EDA tax credits have been used throughout New Jersey for several high-profile developments, including Atlantic City’s Gateway Project. In 2016, the EDA approved $70 million in tax credits toward the construction of Stockton University’s city campus, which opened in 2018.

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Staff Writer

I cover Atlantic City government and the casino industry since joining The Press in early 2018. I formerly worked as a politics & government reporter for NJ Herald and received the First Amendment: Art Weissman Memorial NJPA Award two years in a row.

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