TRENTON — New Jersey Gov.-elect Phil Murphy vowed on Thursday to do “whatever it takes” to fight the Republican tax bill under consideration in Congress, saying he’ll work with California and New York to file a legal challenge if the “devastating” measure becomes law.
“We will tear up the floorboards,” Murphy, a Democrat who won a double-digit victory this month, told reporters in Trenton. “We will exhaust every available means to fight back — legal and otherwise.”
Story Continued Below
Murphy said his state would be “screwed” if the proposal becomes law, labeling it “a tax hike for millions of people in New Jersey” and calling it “unconscionable.”
The governor-elect said his transition team has been in contact with both states in recent days, and he referenced a term that’s been used by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo: “Double tax,” which refers to the idea that people would be taxed twice on the same income if the federal government eliminates a deduction for state and local taxes.
“I’m not a [constitutional] lawyer, I’m not smart enough to know whether that’s accurate or not,” Murphy said. “But we are also already engaging our team within our operation with legal scholars around the state and, if we need to, around this country to figure out what it means.”
Cuomo has been sounding the alarm on the tax bill for more than a month, appearing with Sen. Chuck Schumer at a press conference in an Albany suburb and hosting a joint conference call with California Gov. Jerry Brown.
Unlike 1986, when leaders from those states united to beat back the elimination of the so-called SALT deduction, four of the nine Republican House members from New York supported the bill. Cuomo dubbed them “Benedict Arnolds.”
In New Jersey, just one of the five Republican members of the House delegation — Rep. Tom MacArthur — voted in favor of the bill when it passed earlier this month. All other members of the state’s congressional delegation, including both U.S. senators, oppose the bill.
The House version would preserve part of the SALT deduction, allowing people to write off up to $10,000 in property taxes. The Senate version would eliminate SALT entirely.
For Murphy, the proposal doesn’t just pose a threat to the bottom lines of many constituents but also to his broader agenda, which would require him to raise taxes more than $1 billion a year.
The governor-elect, who campaigned on the idea of making the state’s economy “fairer,” wants to raise taxes on millionaires and do so within his first 100 days. Senate President Steve Sweeney, a fellow Democrat, says he’s not sure if he’ll be able to move ahead with the increase in income taxes until he understands the impact of the federal tax bill.
Murphy, who spoke to reporters after delivering an opening statement at a meeting of a transition working group focused on New Jersey’s economy, said his temperature had gone up in recent days as it become more likely that the Senate may be able to pass the tax bill.
The bill, he said, was “put together under the cover of night,” and that gave him hope it would have big flaws that would present “openings” for legal action.
“This is a complete and utter outrage, and I don’t know how else to say — we ain’t going to stand for it,” Murphy said.
He said he was in close contact with all of the Democratic members of the state’s congressional delegation, and said he plans to meet Sunday and Monday with several other Democratic governors. The tax bill will be a “major topic,” he said.
“You should assume we will stand visibly, strongly, forthrightly with other states that look like us,” Murphy said.
Jimmy Vielkind contributed to this report.