Gov. Murphy wants to tax N.J. millionaires. What would that mean?

New Jersey Budget
As New Jersey Assembly Speaker Craig J. Coughlin, back left, D-Woodbridge, N.J., and Senate President Steve Sweeney, back right, D-West Deptford, N.J., look on, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy addresses a gathering as he unveils his 2019 budget Tuesday, March 13, 2018, in the Assembly chamber of the Statehouse in Trenton, N.J. Some of the first-term Democratic governor's proposals are to raise the state sales tax and extend its reach, hike income taxes on the wealthy and legalize recreational marijuana. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

In his first budget address Tuesday, Gov. Murphy proposed a tax on millionaires — one of many proposals aimed at funding investments in pensions, schools, and transit.

“Yes, a millionaire’s tax is the right thing to do — and now is the time to do it,” the Democratic governor told legislators in Trenton.

How much money would the tax raise?

Murphy said raising the state income tax rate for residents who earn more than $1 million would bring in $765 million this calendar year.

New Jersey residents would pay a new 10.75 percent marginal tax rate on any income above $1 million. The top tax rate is currently 8.97 percent, for income over $500,000.

How many millionaires would pay the tax?

The state Treasury Department said the tax would affect about 20,000 New Jersey residents and 19,000 nonresident New Jersey taxpayers.

Who supports and opposes the tax?

“The people of New Jersey are with us on the millionaire’s tax, as they want us to restore the value they get out of the tax dollars they entrust to our care,” Murphy said in his budget address.

That claim — and the concept of taxing millionaires — is not new for Murphy. It was central to his campaign last year.

But after Murphy was elected in November, Congress passed a new federal tax plan that will impact homeowners in New Jersey by capping deductions for state and local income taxes. The federal tax plan caused Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester), to back off his support for a tax on millionaires — which could throw into question the fate of Murphy’s proposal. Sweeney has proposed an increase in the corporate income tax.

Opponents of a tax on millionaires also say it would make the state less competitive and would deter high-earning individuals from living there. Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff, a former New Jersey state treasurer, criticized both Sweeney’s and Murphy’s approaches in a recent op-ed on NJ Spotlight.

“As tax hikes, the two proposals nonetheless share a defining negative characteristic: In the special context of state tax policy, they are both notably more anticompetitive than many of the available alternatives,” he wrote.

Do other states have millionaires taxes?

Several other states have taxes on millionaires. New York has a tax rate of 8.82 percent for single taxpayers who earn more than $1 million and married couples earning more than $2.1 million. California, Connecticut, and the District of Columbia also have higher income tax rates for incomes over $1 million. Pennsylvania doesn’t; it imposes a flat 3.07 percent income-tax rate.

 What other tax changes did Murphy propose?

A tax on millionaires is just one of Murphy’s proposed tax changes and hikes.

His proposals would amount to an additional $1.6 billion in tax revenue. They include increasing the sales tax, taxing recreational marijuana — assuming the state legalizes it by 2019 — and taxing transactions through Airbnb, Uber, and Lyft. Murphy also wants to close a loophole through which hedge funds pay relatively low capital gains taxes on their profits; he would tax their profits as income.

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