The following letter from SOMA Action — a grassroots organization in South Orange and Maplewood committed to a “progressive agenda of social and environmental justice, transparency in government, and the value of a diverse and inclusive community” — was sent to New Jersey Assembly members Mila Jasey and John McKeon, both of whom represent NJ’s 27th district, on June 13, 2019.
Dear Assembly members Jasey and McKeon,
We are writing to you to express our disappointment, and, quite frankly, our confusion, about your recent back-pedaling on support for the Millionaire’s Tax. We understand after speaking with your offices that you are now planning on voting for a budget that does NOT include a tax on New Jersey’s millionaires.
We recognize that Assemblyman McKeon introduced the original Millionaire’s Tax bill in the assembly in 2014. We were heartened when he was one of the first assembly members to publicly in support it in Governor Murphy’s budget. You are both primary sponsors of the current Assembly Bill A2703, from February of 2018, and the prior 1 version from 2016. The Assemblyman wrote on his own Facebook page, “While the 2 success of persons earning in excess of $1 million a year should be celebrated as beneficiaries of the Trump tax cuts they are in the best position to afford a small incremental increase in income tax on the money earned in excess of $1 million dollars a year.” We wholeheartedly agree.
As you know, there is broad support for this tax, even in our district–LD27–which has the most millionaires of any district in NJ. Indeed, according to a recent Rutgers-Eagleton/Fairleigh Dickinson University survey, a full 72 percent of New Jerseyans wish to see this tax enacted. They also understand that this tax would help 3 provide desperately needed improvements for public schools, NJ Transit, and other infrastructure projects. This tax would also provide property tax relief, especially to those to those of us in Essex County, where property taxes are among the highest in the state and the nation.
Residents of NJ also understand that this tax would affect a small minority of who can well afford it. Moreover, unlike Senate President Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Coughlin’s “Path to Progress,” a Millionaire’s Tax would affect only the super wealthy—those making more than $1 million in annual income. In our own district, it would raise taxes on only 2,515, or 2.4% of residents, according to a study by New Jersey Policy Perspectives. The argument that this tax would cause high-earners to 4 move out of state is simply not supported by facts. While retirees may leave NJ for other states where taxes are lower, nearly all of the people affected by this tax are still working, need access to New York City, and many have school-age children who benefit from New Jersey’s excellent schools. Given our proximity to Wall Street, this tax is unlikely to lead them to flee the state in large numbers.
Finally, we are concerned that by wavering on the Millionaire’s Tax now, you are sending a dangerous signal to state legislative leadership in South Jersey. These lawmakers seek to hold hostage legislation that is widely popular and financially sound in order to pursue political and personal grievances unrelated to the budget (yes, it’s about power). This is not how budget negotiations—or any policy negotiations for that matter—should be conducted. As true independent voices in the NJ Assembly, we rely on you to stand up for the interests of your constituents, and not to bow to the pressures of anti-democratic party leadership.
We know you still “support” a Millionaire’s Tax. But right now, verbal support is not enough. We hope you will be leaders on this issue. New Jersey needs a Millionaire’s Tax that will provide the stream of revenue and tax relief that we so desperately need.
South Orange-Maplewood (SOMA) Action