George Norcross: Out of the darkness and into the harsh light

George Norcross has long been thought of as the Wizard of Oz who behind the curtain manipulated much of New Jersey politics. Now ProPublica and WNYC have ripped away that curtain and placed him under the spotlight. They reveal that “Nearly two thirds of $1.6 billion in tax incentives in his hometown of Camden went to his own company, business partners, political allies and clients of his brother.” Below are some of the details in the ProPublica/WNYC article and responses from Gov. Murphy and Norcross.

  • Special Breaks for the Boss’s Hometown:  “A Rutgers study indicated, ‘excessive uses of taxpayer money for limited job creation.'”
  • Working-Class Boy Makes Good: “Norcross, 63, is no ordinary party boss. He built his company into one of the nation’s largest insurance brokerages.”
  • How the Sausage Was Made: “NJ’s tax break program began in 1996.  Norcross said in an interview that he played little role in the legislation, but his influence is one of the worst kept secrets in Trenton.”
  • Implementing the Program: “In 2015 a whistleblower filed a suit claiming that he was improperly fired as an EDA finance officer for complaining about program abuses. He lost his suit. After his firing, the EDA replaced him with Mark Chierici, who had worked at American Water for the previous three decades. The company, represented by Philip Norcross’ lobbying firm, received a $164 million tax break to move its headquarters to the Camden waterfront.”
  • Brothers, in Law: “Philip Norcross and his law firm, Parker McCay, have consulted for a string of tax break applicants that have won some of the biggest awards approved under the tax incentive program. Philip Norcross helped draft key amendments in 2014, and brother Donald Norcross – then a state senator and now a member of Congress – co-sponsored the bill.”
  • The Cost of Change: “New Jersey is now dealing with the ripple effects of a tax incentive program that will cost about $1.6 billion in current and future forgone tax revenue. It is being openly criticized as too generous given the state’s fiscal pressures.”

PARTS OF WHAT GOVERNOR MURPHY SAYS AND NORCROSS DISPUTES 

Gov. Murphy: “I am deeply troubled by the findings outlined in both the WNYC report this morning and the New York Times story this afternoon. Coupled with what we already know about how the tax incentive program operated over the past six years, I believe now more than ever in the importance of the task force I commissioned.”

George Norcross: “The story reported that there is at least $1.6 billion of new private sector investment in a city that was on its good days merely ‘struggling.’ Now, government statistics reveal that jobs and graduation rates are up, while crime, unemployment and poverty are down.”

A February legislative hearing. Many EDA tax breaks went to companies that agreed to locate in Camden during the Christie administration’s efforts to boost that region’s economy, but locals and union leader claimed the jobs did not trickle down. /NJ TV News

ProPublica: How Companies and Allies of One Powerful Democrat Got $1.1 Billion in Tax Breaks

WNYC: NJ Power Broker at Center of Tax-Break Controversy

NY Times: How a lawyer with deep connections to Democratic politicians in New Jersey helped to dole out hundreds of millions of dollars in state tax credits.

NJ.com: Murphy takes new shots at ‘deeply troubled’ tax incentive program under Christie. Wants a ‘total revamp.’

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