Christie Vetoes N.J. Bill on Presidential Candidate Tax Returns

Daily Tax Report: State provides authoritative coverage of state and local tax developments across the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, tracking legislative and regulatory updates,...

By John Herzfeld

A New Jersey bill to require candidates for president and vice president to disclose their federal income tax returns was vetoed May 1 by Gov. Chris Christie (R), who called it “a transparent political stunt.”

The legislation ( S. 3048/A. 4520), passed by the Democratic-controlled Legislature March 16, was the first bill to clear both houses of a state Legislature in a wave of more than 40 measures in 23 states after President Donald Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns during the 2016 presidential campaign. It would have required disclosure as a condition of appearing on the state’s general election ballot or receiving any of New Jersey’s Electoral College votes.

Christie, in his veto message, said the bill was a “clearly unconstitutional” bid by Democrats “to deal with their disbelief at the 2016 election results, and to play politics to their base.”

Assembly Judiciary Committee Chairman John McKeon (D), in a statement, accused Christie of “grandstanding and childish rhetoric,” adding: “This bill wasn’t about President Trump. 2016 is over. Donald Trump is the president. This bill was about going forward, yet all Gov. Christie can think about is his ally Donald Trump. Sad!”

Seeks to Turn Tables

Christie, a top adviser to Trump during the 2016 campaign, returned the bill to the Legislature, seeking changes that would take out references to federal tax returns and the presidential election and replace them with language lifting an exemption for legislative records from the state’s Open Public Records Act.

“If transparency is what the legislature wants, let’s get our own house in order first,” he said. The vetoed law, he said, “manufactures from whole cloth a qualification for the office of president not found” in the U.S. constitution.

Christie is barred by term limits from running again this November, and McKeon, in his statement, looked ahead past that election. “This debate will continue, and hopefully the next governor will be more willing to do the right thing,” he said.

A similar bill has passed both houses in Hawaii, the home state of former President Barack Obama. A similar one is pending in nearby New York.

Tax Credit Bills Approved

In another action, Christie signed a bill ( S. 158/A. 3631) to extend a state tax credit program for emerging technologies to cover holding companies. The bill, revising the state Angel Investor Tax Credit Act, “will make it easier for high-tech businesses to attract investments,” the New Jersey Business & Industry Association said in a statement.

The program has approved credits for more than $220 million in investments to 51 technology and life sciences companies in the state since it began in 2013, said Andrew Musick, vice president of the association. By extending the program to holding companies, the law makes the program “better able to spur investment in New Jersey companies.”

Another bill ( S. 2868/A. 4501) approved by Christie increases residential tax credits under the state Economic Redevelopment and Growth Grant program to a total of $823 million, restricting $105 million of the tax credits to qualified residential projects and mixed-use parking projects.

To contact the reporter on this story: John Herzfeld in New York at jherzfeld@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ryan C. Tuck at rtuck@bna.com

For More Information

Text of Christie's veto message is at http://src.bna.com/opf.

Text of the tax return disclosure bill is at http://src.bna.com/m4Q.

Copyright © 2017 Tax Management Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Request Daily Tax Report: State