Tag: Jon Bramnick

Bramnick supports middle-class tax cut to supports NJ’s recreational boating industry

Source: NJ Spotlight -

This year’s summer boating and fishing season may be over, but industry advocates are hoping a bipartisan push to offer new tax breaks on boat purchases in New Jersey remains a top concern for state lawmakers this fall.

The state Senate last week voted overwhelmingly in favor of a bill that would set a maximum amount for sales taxes on boats or yachts purchased in New Jersey while reducing the sales tax for all boat sales here by 50 percent.

Jon Bramnick

Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Union) was supportive. He noted Assemblyman Sam Fiocchi (R-Cumberland) proposed the exact same change that Christie wrote into the conditional veto on the Assembly floor in June, only to see Democrats shoot it down.

“I support middle-class tax cuts, and the change proposed by (Fiocchi) provides a boat-tax discount to the middle class,” Bramnick said. “It’s good for consumers and our economy, and the Assembly should approve it as soon as possible.”

The bill incorporates changes advanced by both Democrats who control the Legislature and Gov. Chris Christie, a second-term Republican. It has the support of the state’s boating industry, as well, but critics say it will help the rich more than anyone else.

Christie has roundly criticized Democratic legislative leaders in New Jersey while on the campaign trail this year as he seeks the GOP’s 2016 presidential nomination, but the two sides have been raising similar concerns about a New Jersey boating industry that’s been hit hard in recent years by an economic recession, Superstorm Sandy and competition from other Atlantic seaboard states that have been battling to offer the most generous tax breaks on boat and yacht sales.

The measure currently before New Jersey lawmakers is the product of a bill they originally approved in June that was sent back to them by Christie in the form of a conditional veto issued in August.

The newest version, which includes Christie’s recommendations, would cap at $20,000 the maximum amount of sales tax that New Jersey could levy on a boat or yacht sold here. It would also cut to 3.5 percent the sales tax rate on all boats purchased here.

Melissa Danko, executive director of the Marine Trades Association of New Jersey, said the bill is “desperately needed to support our struggling industry.” Boat registrations, she said, have fallen by nearly 100,000 since 2001.

“Tax caps like these encourage buyers to stay in-state to make their purchases; whether high-, mid- or low-dollar. This also increases the likelihood that maintenance and repairs will also stay local,” Danko said. “The jobs preserved and created are those of sales representatives, production workers, dock operators, mechanics and more.”

But critics of the measure complain that the tax breaks will go to people with the means to buy the most expensive boats. And they say the lost revenue will come at the expense of a state budget that is already shorting investments in education, transportation and public-employee retirements, among other priorities, they say.

Another vote is still needed in the Senate, but given the ease of last week’s approval — only one senator voted against the current version of the bill — all eyes have turned now to the Assembly. And consideration of the tax breaks comes as all 80 Assembly seats are up for grabs in November, with Republicans aggressively seeking their first majority in roughly a decade.

An earlier version of the bill that only featured the $20,000 sales-tax cap passed the Assembly by a 66-4 margin in June. But that was before Christie issued his conditional veto, which kept the $20,000 cap, but also proposed the across-the-board reduction of the sales tax on all boat purchases. It was that change that the Senate gave approved last week.

When asked about the fate of the new version of the bill in the Assembly, a spokesman for Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) said yesterday that Prieto “plans to review the conditional veto and talk to sponsors.”

Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Union) was more supportive. He noted Assemblyman Sam Fiocchi (R-Cumberland) proposed the exact same change that Christie wrote into the conditional veto on the Assembly floor in June, only to see Democrats shoot it down.

“I support middle-class tax cuts, and the change proposed by (Fiocchi) provides a boat-tax discount to the middle class,” Bramnick said. “It’s good for consumers and our economy, and the Assembly should approve it as soon as possible.”

Danko, from the Marine Trades Association, said the bigger issue is the need to support the state’s recreational boating industry.

“This is not about tax breaks for the wealthy, as many have claimed,” she said. “The reality is that local manufacturers, dealers, marinas and repair shops will see the greatest economic benefits.”

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Bramnick: Late OPRA responses shouldn’t cost taxpayers money

NJ 101.5 -

Jon Bramnick

New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act is good public policy said Assembly GOP Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield), but he doesn’t like that the law forces courts to require towns to use citizens’ tax dollars to pay attorneys’ fees for OPRA filers if the municipality is just a day late in responding.

He said sometimes a town may have made a mistake or had reasonable explanation for a delay.

“The current seven-day response rule may create a situation where if someone’s one hour late or one day late towns are going to pay significant attorney’s fees. I think there has to be a reasonable standard,” said Bramnick, who is also a lawyer. “OPRA is a very good law and we want transparency in government but there is that technical issue with the law that I’d like to change.”

A bill to give judges discretion in awarding lawyers’ fees has already been written and Bramnick said he would formally introduce it when the General Assembly returns to session after the November elections.

“My change to the law would simply give courts some discretion if the municipality did diligent work in finding and producing those records, but were a day or two late. Attorneys’ fees in those cases would not be mandatory,” the assemblyman said.

If it takes two months for a government entity to respond, Bramnick said that would be unreasonable and the lawyers’ fees should absolutely be awarded. He explained that his pending legislation is a taxpayer protection measure.

“Right now even if the city or towns make a good faith effort to respond to an OPRA request, but is a day late, taxpayers pay for that. These can be substantial attorneys’ fees that the taxpayers have to pay,” he said.

The New Jersey State League of Municipalities provided the following examples of municipalities being required to pay attorney fees as a result of a denial of an OPRA request being overturned:

Hoboken, NJ – Councilwoman Beth Mason obtained attorney fees after her OPRA requests were determined to be wrongfully denied. The Supreme Court held that the statute mandates attorney fees for any wrongfully denied OPRA request.

Longport, NJ – A small shore town in Atlantic County, received 75 OPRA requests from one person at the same time. They complied with 74 of the requests, but inadvertently missed one in the middle and did not reply in time, thus constituting a wrongful denial. The requester immediately went to Superior Court and then received attorney fees for the wrongful denial.

Raritan, NJ – Contested the format of records requested by a media outlet and denied electronic format of the information, but provided a different format. The media outlet sued and won, and Raritan was required to pay $590,000 in attorney fees.

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Bramnick bill: NJ residents should be able to join Assembly and Senate sessions

NJ 101.5 -

Jon Bramnick

Jon Bramnick’s new bill to allow citizens into Senate sessions is a great idea. You as a NJ resident should have access to your legislators and under Bramnick’s plan, you would be able to sit in on the sessions. Would anyone go? They should at least have the ability to if they so choose.

See why I think it is a good idea in the video below.


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Bramnick Statement on the passing of Yogi Berra

Assembly Republican Press Release -

Jon Bramnick

Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick, R-Union, Morris and Somerset, issued the following statement on the death of Yogi Berra:

“Yogi Berra was a true New Jersey icon and baseball legend. His warm personality and his skills on the field made him a fan favorite. He will be missed.”

Quotes attributed to Yogi Berra

  • “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”
  • “This is like deja vu all over again.”
  • “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
  • “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”
  • “Baseball is 90 percent mental, the other half is physical.”
  • “I didn’t really say everything I said.”

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Bramnick continues discussion on gas tax

Atlantic City Press -

Enjoy the cheap gas while you still can.

A depleted Transportation Trust Fund — which finances capital projects such as paving highways and building bridges — has state lawmakers considering the idea of doing something that hasn’t been done in 25 years: increasing the gasoline tax.

The current state gas tax of 14.5 cents per gallon is the second lowest in the nation. It includes a 10.5-cent motor fuels tax and a 4-cent petroleum products tax.

Department of Transportation Commissioner Jamie Fox described the state’s roads and bridges in April as “old, crumbling and getting worse every day.” Lawmakers say something needs to be done to replenish the fund.

The $1.2 billion fund faces about $28 billion in debt service payments over the next 30 years. There’s no plan to pay for its debt and capital projects in the next fiscal year. About $200 million annually of the Transportation Trust Fund goes to the state’s counties and municipalities to help pay for local road and bridge projects. Local transportation aid was frozen earlier this year while debate continues on plans for renewing the fund.

Jon Bramnick

The dire situation may lead to compromise in the Democratic-controlled Legislature. Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, R-Morris, Somerset, Union, said Friday at the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce’s Business Summit in Atlantic City that he’s open to raising the gas tax, but only if Democrats agree to lower taxes somewhere else, namely the estate tax.

“The compromise has to be lowering some taxes,” Bramnick said. “I can tell you at some point there will be a compromise, and there will be a solution because there has to be a solution.”

Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, D-Bergen, Hudson, said he’s willing to look at the estate tax, such as raising its $675,000 threshold or phasing it out over a three-year period.

Prieto said a compromise with Republicans would give everyone “skin in the game” and help override a possible veto from Gov. Chris Christie, who has resisted raising taxes.

The talk of raising the gas tax comes as gas prices continue to plummet. The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas in New Jersey was $2.04 as of Friday, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic. That’s 26 cents below the national average and down $1.19 from this time last year.

A 2013 report from the American Society of Engineers said driving on roads in need of repair costs New Jersey motorists about $605 per year.

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Bramnick on the truth about NJ’s highest tax burden in the nation

Source: NJ 101.5 -

It’s not always good to be number one. The nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank, Truth in Accounting has released a new report that revealed New Jersey has the highest tax burden per taxpayer in the nation.

The study didn’t even factor in the Garden State’s property taxes which are highest in the country on average. New Jersey has $28.6 billion in assets, but has $185.6 billion in bills. That translates to $52,300 per taxpayer in tax debt.

The formula for determining the tax burden is actually pretty simple. The think tank looked at how much money each state would need to pay off all of its debt and then divided that by the number of residents in each state. New Jersey’s debt burden for the year 2014 was almost $4,000 higher than the next worst state, which was Connecticut at $48,600.

Jon Bramnick

“The Democratic Party has controlled both the Assembly and the Senate for 13 years. They’ve raised taxes 115 times. When you allow them to raise taxes 115 times over 13 years this is the result,” said Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield).

The news gets worse. Last year’s study showed New Jersey’s debt burden was $36,000. Truth in Accounting blamed the increase on New Jersey’s whopping unfunded liability for public employee pensions. New Jersey would have to pay $140 billion retirement benefits, but owes $186 billion.

“As for our pension liability, we need to do more reforms and we’ve been told by the majority party, the Democrats in Trenton that they’re not interested in any more reforms,” Bramnick said.

New Jersey can share its misery. The report showed the Garden State is one of 39 sinkhole states without enough assets to cover debt.

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Bramnick voices strong opinion on taxes at Business Summit [video]

Source: NJTV [video] -

The latest jobs numbers suggest that New Jersey’s business climate is showing signs of life, but there is anxiety among the state business leaders and this so-called summit was intended to bring business and government together to try and figure out how to get the simmer to a boil. The main areas of concern are taxes (too high), Regulations (too many), workforce readiness (not enough) and transportation and infrastructure (it’s all falling apart.)

In panel after panel, participants agreed that growth is essential, but that without the help of government, the process will continue to be slow. So, it was at today’s panel of legislative leaders that business people expected to get some answers, and perhaps some hope. What they got was New Jersey’s special brand of legislative bipartisanship.

Jon Bramnick

“You can nibble around the edges all you want, you can have a ten percent program, you can have all kinds of incentive programs, but if nobody’s here, no one’s gonna take advantage of that,” barked Assembly Minority leader Jon Bramnick, “So I tell you it is time to change the legislature, despite the fact that personally I love these guys.”

As participants looked on with impatience, Senate President Steve Sweeney said solutions were at close, but that compromise was necessary.

“The infrastructure has to get fixed. And we have to address — whether it’s a gas tax or a sales tax — it’s gonna be a tax, but what you can do is constitutionally. You can write a question that is so tight that it can’t go for maintenance. It can’t go for operations, that every single penny goes for the purpose that it’s being raised.”

But Ruthi Byrne, president of Zinn, Graves & Field Public Relations dismissed the contentious tone of the panel. “That’s the way the legislature works, but it’s a messy business,” she said. “It’s making sausage, you expect that, but what you do hope and expect is that, at the end of the day, you will have a sausage.”

At then end of today’s session, Chamber CEO Tom Bracken asked the lawmakers if they would commit to an ongoing dialogue with business leaders on their big four issues. They said they would and Bracken said he would call them first thing in the morning on Monday, telling NJTV News later that that made the whole conference worthwhile.

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Bramnick talks about gas, estate tax talk, but no deal at biz summit

Asbury Park Press -

One top Republican lawmaker was ready to vote to hike the gas tax. The top two Democrats were supportive of exempting more households from estate and inheritance taxes or eliminating the levies altogether.

There were occasional moments Friday at the New Jersey Business Summit when it looked like the dozen chambers of commerce and 20-plus other organizations that put together the gridlock-busting effort might have secured the two-day event’s coveted breakthrough.

Those moments were fleeting, though. In the end, lawmakers didn’t budge much from their earlier viewpoints on infrastructure, taxes, regulations and workforce readiness. But they did agree to keep the conversation going with summit organizers on the topics after leaving the Borgata conference room.

Jon Bramnick

Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick did appear more declarative than he had in the past in committing to support an increase in the gasoline tax, though he said that was conditional on reducing estate and inheritance taxes.

“I’m ready to vote a tax increase on gas today. I’m ready to do that,” said Bramnick, R-Union. “I want the commitment that some other taxes such as the estate and inheritance tax will be reduced and make it equivalent at the federal level.”

By next June, all the money that goes into the Transportation Trust Fund will have to be used to pay existing debts, meaning there can be no additional road and rail construction. Democrats have called for a higher gas tax to fund those types of projects but haven’t been able to reach an agreement with Gov. Chris Christie’s administration despite negotiations that include a cut in the estate tax, a priority of business groups who say it’s a big problem with New Jersey’s tax climate.

“I didn’t tell you it was a good idea. It’s an idea that we can’t run away from because, I’ve looked at the numbers and you’re going to have to have some sort of increase on your gas tax in order to solve the problem,” Bramnick said. “I don’t care – politically, that may not be the right thing to say, but the numbers just don’t work.”

Democrats said that was a new position for Bramnick, who said it wasn’t different from his previous views on the intertwined topics.

Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, D-Hudson, acknowledged he has talked with Christie about cutting estate and inheritance taxes in conjunction with raising the gas tax, and he said it’s a problem for the state’s competitiveness that its tax is applied to estates worth $675,000, which is far lower than the federal level of $5.2 million.

He’s concerned about reducing the amount of revenue available for the general budget, though.

“That’s something that I’ve entertained. I’ve talked (about) that to the governor. The Senate president knows about it. That is a $440 million hit to the general fund, but guess what? We’ll look at it,” Prieto said. “But that doesn’t mean the merits of what the low-hanging fruit is, that it is a gas tax.”

Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, suggested a cut in the estate and inheritance taxes could be phased in to limit the initial impact on the state budget. But he said action on a gas tax shouldn’t be contingent on a deal.

“It shouldn’t be either/or. They shouldn’t be tied. They don’t need to be tied. We agree estate tax and retirement income tax are a major problem,” Sweeney said.

“That has to be done, period. We agree. I don’t think anyone disagrees. So you’ve got a commitment on that,” Sweeney said. “But the infrastructure has to get fixed, and we have to address whether it’s a sales tax, whether it’s a gas tax. It is going to be a tax.”

We are going to figure this out. We need a governor to come back,” Sweeney said. “He signed a new tax pledge, so I don’t know how we’re going to deal with that. But we do need his participation.”

Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean Jr., R-Union, didn’t say Friday whether he’d vote for a higher gas tax but said the public needs long-term assurances that the money is spent efficiently and as promised.

“If individuals think you’re going to have an agreement and then four years from now, that agreement’s going to be broken, they’re not going to make the long-term plans to invest in the state of New Jersey,” Kean said.

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Top Assembly Republican says he’s ‘ready’ to vote for gas tax hike

Source: Star-Ledger -

The state Assembly’s Republican leader on Friday embraced an increase in the gasoline tax to fund transportation projects, but said his support is contingent on a reduction in the inheritance tax.

Jon Bramnick

Jon Bramnick (R-Union) told an audience of business leaders at a statewide business summit that he’s “ready to vote for a tax increase on gas today,” provided the Democratic-led Legislature takes up the duo of death taxes and raise the threshold to match the federal exemption.

“It’s an idea that you can’t run away from,” he said. “You’re going to have to have some sort of increase on your gas tax in order to solve the problem.”

Earlier this year it appeared Gov. Chris Christie and the Legislature were inching toward a deal on the gas and estate taxes. But while the gas tax, considered the key source of revenue for the state’s ailing Transportation Trust Fund, was a popular topic at the summit in Atlantic City, it’s been dormant in Trenton.

“I’m so happy to hear that Jon is ready now for a gas tax, because the last time we sat down he was looking to cut $1 billion from education,” Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) said on the legislative panel, which also featured Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Senator Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R-Union).

Without ruling out the gas tax hike, Bramnick told a gathering of New Jersey mayors in February that the state should look instead at changing the school funding formula to save as much as $1 billion. He called Prieto’s statement a misinterpretation, saying he simply wants to reconcile the gas tax increase with tax cuts elsewhere.

Branmick stressed Friday that if the Legislature is “going to send a message about more taxes in the state, how can you sit there as the leaders in the Legislature and not send some other message? All we’ve had over the years is one message in 13 years. Higher taxes, higher taxes, higher taxes.”

He challenged the Democratic leaders to make a commitment to post the bill to phase out the estate tax.

Prieto said he’s entertained the estate tax changes, but the state looks to lose about $440 million in tax revenue at a time when it can ill afford the hit. Sweeney, too, said the two taxes shouldn’t be conflated.

Earlier in the two-day summit on improving the state’s economic climate, business leaders called on lawmakers to dedicate new revenue to the Transportation Trust Fund, which is running out of money for new projects. Advocates said commuters have accepted the increase as a necessary investment.

While Prieto and Sweeney promoted the Legislature’s efforts to reduce waiting times for developers and improve vocational education in the state, Bramnick suggested the best thing the state could do for business is replace the people at the top, noting that all 80 seats of the Assembly are up for election this year.

“We’ve made the state less attractive because it’s too expensive, the taxes are too high,” he said. “I want to first tell you that I really like Vinnie Prieto. I think he’s an honest, decent guy. And I really like the Senate President, but they’ve been the management team down in Trenton for 13 years in the Legislature. This November, the Assembly is up for reelection. I’m telling you that if you were running a business and you had a management team that made things too expensive and not competitive, you would change the management team, despite the fact that I love the guy. I think he’s a great guy. I just think we need a new management team.”

Prieto briefly broke in, saying “If you want to make this a political event, we can make it a political event.”

Bramnick responded: “I’m just saying there are bills in my judgment that make this state more affordable, that create an atmosphere where we’re more competitive, and those bills aren’t moving in the Legislature. Once again, it’s not personal, but it’s partisan.”

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Bramnick ready for gas tax increase, under one condition

Source: NJBiz -

Appearing all together on a panel Friday morning at the New Jersey Business Summit in Atlantic City, the state’s four legislative leaders agreed that a gas tax is inevitable to help fix the depleted Transportation Trust Fund.

Jon Bramnick

Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) went as far as to say that he’s “ready to vote on a tax increase on gas today,” adding one condition: That the Legislature moves towards eliminating the state’s estate and inheritance taxes.

“I’m linking them together,” said Bramnick, prompting some disagreement from his Democratic counterparts.

Asked by Bramnick why they won’t pledge to commit to post a bill eliminating the estate and inheritance taxes, Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Secaucus) said that, while they’re not opposed to additional reforms, the two shouldn’t be connected.

“They don’t need to be tied and they shouldn’t be tied. … We agree that the estate tax is a problem and the inheritance tax is a problem,” said Sweeney.

While connecting the two would address the TTF’s needs, it would also pull over $400 million away from the general fund, Sweeney and Prieto said.

Prieto added that he’s “willing to negotiate.”

Sweeney said that a big key to fixing the TTF will be ensuring that the funding source is dedicated and locked in. That will make the public more trusting of a tax, he added.

“We need to dedicate our dollars to what they’re raised for,” Sweeney said.

Bramnick said the issue at hand is simply part of New Jersey’s larger problem with high taxes, telling those in attendance that the only long-term solution is to vote out the Democrats currently in leadership positions.

“It is time to change the Legislature, despite the fact that I love these guys,” Bramnick said, making a tongue-in-cheek reference to Sweeney and Prieto sitting nearby.

“I appreciate bipartisanship … but if things aren’t right, you change stuff,” Bramnick said.

The comments sparked some push back from the Democrats and panel moderator, Eric Scott of New Jersey 101.5 FM.

The panel also spent some time covering the topic of investments in higher education and vocational training.

Referencing some of the work that has already been done in those fields and others, Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R-Westfield) noted there’s room for compromise and collaboration.

“We can do some things on a bipartisan basis,” Kean said.

The panel closed the two-day event at Borgata hosted by the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce and other regional chambers and trade organizations.

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