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Assembly committee moves to stop unemployment surcharge on business owners

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As Gov. Chris Christie was appointing a new senator Thursday, an Assembly committee was advancing a bill that could save businesses hundreds of millions of dollars.

The bill, A-4112/A-3675, would eliminate a pending surcharge on unemployment insurance taxes. The bill was released by the Assembly Appropriations Committee Thursday, one month after clearing the Assembly Labor Committee.

The state uses a table to determine unemployment tax rates on an annual basis. As things currently stand, the table calls for businesses to pay the highest tax rate, plus a 10 percent surcharge, beginning July 1. The table is an effort to ensure the state's unemployment trust fund stays solvent.

The table dictates that unemployment tax rates increase as the balance of the unemployment trust fund shrinks in comparison to the total taxable wages in the state.

But lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say the economy isn't yet strong enough to support a tax hike that will cost employers some $300 million next fiscal year.

"This is not the time to be hitting employers with an additional surcharge," said Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-Mount Laurel).

Singleton said New Jersey still has a high unemployment rate, and has seen slow economic growth compared to other states.

Republicans noted the unemployment rate has dropped 0.6 percent over the past two months. Still, they argue, the tax increase could stop the positive trend.

"We need to maintain the momentum of the job-creating atmosphere that New Jersey has experienced over the last three years," said Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose (R-Sparta).

The bill now moves to the full Assembly for a vote. An identical bill passed the full Senate in February.

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