Author: Michael D. DeLoreto

2022 Elections Result in Close Races but Less Turnover Than Expected

With mid-term elections serving as a referendum on the party-in-power, Democrats braced for losses and Republicans sought to catch a “red wave” both in New Jersey and nationwide. Although votes are still being counted in some races, both sides can claim victory, as Republicans were able to pick up some seats and Democrats were able to blunt significant Republican gains. New Jersey’s congressional delegation will remain a Democratic majority, as only one of the hotly contested races resulted in an incumbent Democrat’s loss. In New Jersey’s 7th Congressional District, Republican Tom Kean, Jr. and Democrat Tom Malinowski faced off in a rematch of the 2020 election to represent Central Jersey residents. Mr. Malinowski defeated Mr. Kean then by less than 1 percent, but redistricting made the 7th District more Republican. With a more favorable map, Mr. Kean was able to defeat Congressman Malinowski by about 4 percentage points. In the 3rd Congressional District, Democratic incumbent Andy Kim won nearly 55 percent of the vote against Republican challenger Bob Healey. It was unclear if the newly redrawn district would present a challenge for the sitting congressman; however, by midnight, the election returns demonstrated that Mr. Kim was safely re-elected. Other congressional races, such as the contests in the 5th and 11th Districts, were also viewed as...

Governor Murphy Presents His Fiscal Year 2023 Budget

Governor Murphy presented his Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 Budget to a joint session of the State Legislature in a live address for the first time since February 2020. The proposed budget totals $48.9 billion – a $2.5 billion increase over the FY 2022 budget – and includes a $4.2 billion surplus, which is nearly double the surplus included in last year’s budget. The proposal does not include any new taxes or fees. In fact, the Governor’s spending plan includes a one-year fee holiday to waive fees typically assessed for driver’s license renewals, marriage licenses, state park entry, and license fee applications or renewals for roughly 130,000 professionals across the health care spectrum. The Governor themed his budget address around one word: Affordability. This became a key issue in the 2021 gubernatorial and legislative election, and is something both the Governor and legislative leaders identified as their priority for the current legislative session. The budget proposal looks to improve affordability in the State by addressing property taxes and access to housing. It appropriates $900 million for the Affordable New Jersey Communities for Homeowners and Renters (ANCHOR) Property Tax Relief Program, which proposes to provide property tax rebates to both homeowners and tenants. Additionally, the Governor’s budget allocates $300 million to the Affordable Housing Protection Fund to...

A Look at the 220th Legislature and Annual State of the State Address

On January 11, 2022, New Jersey began a new legislative session marked by the Legislature’s reorganization and the Governor’s State of the State Address. Legislative Reorganization Democrats retained control of both houses, albeit with much smaller margins after Republicans managed to win back several seats in the November elections. Democrats now hold a 24 to 16 majority in the Senate and a 46 to 34 majority in the General Assembly. The Senate has new leadership for the first time in twelve years, with Senator Nicholas Scutari of Union County being sworn in as the Senate President and Senator Teresa Ruiz of Essex County becoming the Senate Majority Leader. Senator Sandra Cunningham of Hudson County remains the Senate President Pro Tempore. Senator Steven Oroho of Sussex County is now the Republican Leader, replacing Tom Kean, Jr., who did not run for reelection in order to focus on his campaign for the 7th Congressional District. The Senate also welcomed five new members. Senators Jon Bramnick (R-21), Gordon Johnson (D-37), Jean Stanfield (R-8), and Andrew Zwicker (D-16) all previously served in the General Assembly. Senator Ed Durr (R-3) has not previously held elective office. In the Assembly, Craig Coughlin of Middlesex County and Louis Greenwald of Camden County will continue as Speaker and Majority Leader, respectively, for another...

More Help Available for Venues Impacted by COVID-19 (Shuttered Venue)

Relief may soon be available to artistic venues impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program, venues affected by the pandemic may be eligible for grants equal to 45 percent of their gross earned revenue, with $10 million being the maximum amount available for a single grant award. The SVOG program was created in December 2020 as part of the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits, and Venues Act, P.L. 116-260. The program was initially funded with $15 billion and will receive an additional $1.25 billion under the American Rescue Plan Act, H.R. 1319. Eligible entities covered under the program include: Live venue operators or promoters Theatrical producers Live performing arts organization operators Relevant museum operators, zoos, and aquariums that meet specific criteria Motion picture theater operators Talent representatives Each business entity owned by an eligible entity that also meets the eligibility requirements Qualified entities must also have been in operation as of February 28, 2020, and have applied for or received a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program on or after December 27, 2020. Grant funds may be used for expenses, which include: Payroll costs Rent payments Utility payments Scheduled mortgage payments (not including prepayment of principal) Scheduled debt payments (not including prepayment of principal) on any indebtedness...

A Look at Governor Murphy’s Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Proposal

Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and an upcoming election in which the governorship and all 120 seats of the Legislature are on the line, Governor Murphy presented his Fiscal Year 2022 Proposed Budget through a virtual address. Unveiling a $44.8 billion spending plan, the Governor proposed no tax increases, a full payment to the pension system, new initiatives, and a significant surplus. Projected Revenues The Governor estimates total revenue in FY 2022 of $47.2 billion, due in large part to the FY 2021 revenues exceeding projections, which provides an opening balance for FY 2022 of $4.9 billion. The Administration also estimates a 2.4 percent growth in total revenue during FY 2022. Revenues are not based on any increases in tax rates or new taxes and do not account for any additional federal assistance to the State from a new stimulus package. Proposed Appropriations Total appropriations of $44.8 billion are $3.6 billion more than the prior fiscal year’s, an increase of 8.8 percent. The two largest expenses in the Proposed Budget are pre-K – 12 education ($18.1 billion) and the full Actuarially Determined Contribution (ADC) pension payment ($6.4 billion). These two items by themselves account for 55 percent of the State’s total spending. Other significant appropriations include: $2.6 billion to the State’s higher education...

Governor Murphy Signs New Economic Incentive Legislation

Governor Murphy signed into law the New Jersey Economic Recovery Act of 2020 (NJERA), opening a new chapter in the Murphy Administration’s efforts to incentivize businesses to invest in New Jersey and to assist the State in recovering from the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. NJERA’s enabling legislation, almost 250 pages long, creates new economic development programs, amends existing programs, and makes operational changes to the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA). New Incentive Programs NJERA 2020 creates nine new incentive programs: The Historic Property Reinvestment Program provides tax credits for part of the cost of rehabilitating historic properties in this State. Tax credits under this program are capped at $50 million annually for six years. Qualified historic properties potentially eligible for tax credits include those designated on the National Register of Historic Places or the New Jersey Register of Historic Places, by the Pinelands Commission, or by municipalities under certain criteria approved by the State Historic Preservation Officer. The Brownfields Redevelopment Incentive Program provides tax credits to compensate developers for remediation costs of redevelopment projects located on brownfield sites. Tax credits under this program are capped at $50 million annually for six years. Brownfield sites include any former or current commercial or industrial site that is currently vacant or underutilized and on which there...

Congress Reaches Agreement on Additional COVID-19 Relief

On Sunday, December 20, 2020, Congressional leaders announced an agreement on a fourth major COVID-19 response bill. Although the legislative language is being finalized, statements from the parties involved in negotiations indicate the agreement includes focused relief for businesses, individuals, and families. For businesses: Expansion of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The proposal includes more than $284 billion for first and second forgivable PPP loans. PPP will now be accessible to nonprofits, local newspapers, TV, and radio broadcasters. Dedicated PPP set-aside for small businesses and lending through community-based lenders like Community Development Financial Institutions (and Minority Depository Institutions). $15 billion in dedicated funding for live venues, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions. $20 billion for additional grants under the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program. Provision of a tax credit to support employers offering paid sick leave. Extension and improvement of the Employee Retention Tax Credit. $82 billion in funding for colleges and schools, including support for HVAC repair and replacement to mitigate virus transmission and reopen classrooms. For individuals and families: A new round of direct payments worth up to $600 per adult and child. $25 billion in rental assistance for families and an extension of the eviction moratorium. Enhancement of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit to increase affordable housing construction and provide greater...

Governor Murphy Issues Executive Order Creating Mandatory Health and Safety Requirements at Businesses

Governor Murphy’s Executive Order 192, issued on October 28, 2020 (the “Order”), requires every business, nonprofit, and governmental or educational entity in the State “that requires or permits its workforce…to be physically present at a worksite” to follow a uniform set of public health measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. The Order becomes effective at 6:00 a.m. on November 5, 2020. The Order mandates ten specific actions that businesses must take: Enable employees to remain at least six feet apart at all times. When employees cannot maintain this distance, businesses must require employees to wear face masks and shall install physical barriers between workstations wherever possible. Require that employees, customers, visitors, and other people entering the worksite wear cloth or disposable face masks while on the premises, in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations. The only exceptions to this directive are for individuals under two years of age or where it is impracticable for a person to wear a face mask, such as when the individual is eating or drinking or where a service being provided by the employer cannot be performed on someone wearing a mask. Businesses must make face masks available, at the businesses’ expense, to their employees. Businesses may permit employees to remove face masks when the...

A Look at the Nine-Month State Budget Proposed By Governor Murphy

Governor Murphy presented a nine-month budget on August 25, 2020, for the abbreviated State Fiscal Year starting October 1, 2020. Relying on a mix of borrowing, tax increase, and budget cuts, the Governor’s proposal for the nine-month fiscal year proposes $32.4 billion in spending, with a proposed budget surplus of $2.2 billion. Coupled with the temporary three-month budget effective July 1 to September 30, 2020, total spending over the twelve-month period would total slightly more than $40 billion. The Governor’s Budget Proposal estimates that roughly $6.2 billion of funding is required to offset anticipated lost revenues from COVID-19. To make up for that shortfall, the Governor is proposing to borrow $4.0 billion as authorized by the “COVID-19 Emergency Bond Act.” The New Jersey Supreme Court recently upheld the Act as constitutionally permissible under the Emergency Exception of the Debt Limitation Clause. An additional $1.0 billion in tax increases and $1.2 billion in programmatic cuts are also proposed. The two main tax increases proposed include a tax of 10.75 percent on income over $1.0 million and an extension of the Corporate Business Tax surcharge of 2.5 percent. The Budget Proposal does maintain some programmatic spending at levels equal to that of the prior fiscal year and proposes new spending. For example, there are no cuts to...

Explanation of Governor Murphy’s Executive Order 107 Regarding Non-Retail or Manufacturing Businesses

Governor Murphy issued Executive Order 107 on March 21, 2020 (the “Order”), which requires the closure of all non-essential brick-and-mortar retail businesses, and requires all New Jersey residents to remain at home or at their place of residence unless engaging in one of nine exempted activities. Order at ¶ 2. One of the exempted activities permitting travel within the State is when a person is “reporting to, or performing, their job.” Id. However, and as it relates to this exemption, the Order requires that “all businesses or non-profits in the State, whether closed or open to the public, must accommodate their workforce, wherever practicable, for telework or work-from-home arrangements.” Order at ¶ 10. In the event that the functions of a particular employee or employees cannot be performed through a telework or work-from-home arrangement, the Order allows those employees to be at the place of employment, but the business or non-profit must make its “best efforts to reduce staff on site to the minimal number necessary to ensure that essential operations can continue.” Order at ¶ 11 (emphasis added). The Order specifically identifies certain types of employees that may need to be physically present at their place of businesses. These include the following: Law enforcement, fire fighters and other first responders; Cashiers or store clerks;...