Christie’s call for 50% tax cut on boat sales approved by N.J. Senate

TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie‘s call to reduce the sales tax on all boats bought in New Jersey by 50 percent moved one step closer to becoming law Thursday — despite some opposition from critics who said the move would really help only wealthy yacht owners.

The Democratic-controlled state Senate voted 33-1 to approve the Republican governor’s changes to a bill that sponsors say will help give a boost to the state’s struggling maritime industry as it continues to recover from Hurricane Sandy.

Both houses of the state Legislature voted in June to pass the original version of the measure (S2784), which would have capped sales tax on yachts at $20,000

But in his conditional veto of the bill, Christie — a candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination — noted that would have provided relief only for those who buy high-end boats for more than $286,000.


MORE: Sailor’s delight: Christie proposes 50% sales tax cut for boat buyers


He instead proposed slashing the 7 percent sales tax on all boats in half to also help “individuals, including middle-class citizens, who purchase smaller boats.”

The National Marine Manufacturers Association said high-priced boats accounted for only a small fraction of the $160 million in new boat sales made in the Garden State last year.

State Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Mercer) was the only lawmaker to vote against Christie’s changes Thursday, saying they really amount to “a lavish deduction to people who buy yachts.”

“How can we afford to take additional revenue out of our treasury when we can’t pay our bills?” Turner said.

Gordon MacInnes, president of liberal think tank New Jersey Policy Perspective, also released a statement Thursday opposing Christie’s alterations.

“While New Jersey’s working families continue to suffer in a stagnant economy with rising costs of essentials like transportation, housing and higher education, New Jersey’s leaders have decided that the folks who really need help are those buying pleasure boats for their weekends,” MacInnes said. “This silly tax break — designed to benefit a very few at the expense of the rest of us — is a step in the wrong direction.”

Still, Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May), one of the measure’s main sponsors, said Christie’s changes will not only help small boat owners but also those who do work on these vessels and own businesses in the maritime industry along the Jersey Shore. 

State Sen. Jeff Whelan (D-Atlantic) said the bill will also give people incentives to buy a boat in New Jersey instead of going elsewhere to get a better deal. 

“This is a good bill,” Whelan said. “It’s going to put people back to work.”

The non-partisan Office of Legislative Services estimated that the Legislature’s original measure would have cost $1 million to $2 million per year in revenue. It’s not clear how much Christie’s changes would cost the state, but Van Drew noted that states across the country have enacted similar bills and saw their revenue go up. 

The original measure also included a change to the 7 percent tax on use of boats that were bought in other states but operated in New Jersey. The bill would have waived the tax on boats used in the state for fewer than 90 days per year.

But Christie’s proposal changes the period to 30 days to ensure the use tax is enforceable.

The state Senate will next vote on the entire bill. After that, it would still need to be approved by the state Assembly and signed by Christie before it becomes law.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Brent Johnson may be reached at bjohnson@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @johnsb01. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook.


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