In a few weeks, state Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff expects public hearings on Gov. Chris Christie’s recently unveiled fiscal year 2015 budget to begin.
Serving as somewhat of a trial run, Sidamon-Eristoff presented the new $34.4 billion spending plan to members of the business community Friday at an event in Monroe Township held by the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s an important forum for feedback but also it helps us prepare the context for the public debate and dialogue that will ensue over the new few months,” Sidamon-Eristoff said.
Echoing the concerns Christie laid out in his budget address over the need for further pension reform, Sidamon-Eristoff reminded the audience that next year’s $2.25 billion pension payment will be “by far, the largest” in the state’s history, thus tightening the reigns on everything else.
Despite the rising combined costs of pensions, health benefits and debt services, Sidamon-Eristoff added that he thinks the proposed budget illustrates an example of responsible spending.
Speaking on what New Jersey can do to become more competitive, Sidamon-Eristoff said that while incentives like those seen in the Economic Opportunity Act are “moving the needle” and helping the cause, the state must also realistically confront its high tax structure.
“We also have to keep our eye on tax competitiveness,” Sidamon-Eristoff said. “We really do.”
Receiving a wave of hands after polling the room on how many knew someone that moved out of the state due to high taxes, Sidamon-Eristoff quipped, “the defense rests.”
“We’ve got to admit to ourselves that taxes do matter,” he said.
Though not delving into the specifics of a so-called “millionaires tax,” an income tax surcharge on the state’s wealthiest that has been previously vetoed by Christie but is now being floated again by some state Democrats, Sidamon-Eristoff made his case.
“I want millionaires to stay here so I can tax them,” he said, jokingly.
Sidamon-Eristoff did, however, tout elements of the state’s business tax system, adding that during its tenure, the Christie administration has provided New Jersey’s businesses with over $2.2 billion in tax relief.
The new budget, he said, achieves greater conformity with federal tax law by clarifying existing laws to close loopholes and promote fairness.
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