POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Nuclear subsidy bill held in state Senate

BY Michael Aron, Chief Political Correspondent |

The nuclear subsidy bill would give Public Service Enterprise Group, PSEG, $320 million a year for a decade. The company says its three nuclear reactors in Salem County are losing out to natural gas and might have to shut down in two or three years.

Senate President Steve Sweeney has been trying to pass the subsidy bill since December. The reactors are in his district and account for at least 1,600 jobs, but opposition from environmentalists, manufacturers and gas companies has been fierce.

Monday, the Democrats decided to hold the bill to rework it.

“I wouldn’t make a tremendous amount of it. I think there’s some tweaking and changes that needed to be made, not to the very substance of it. I mean, we still want to save the plant. It represents 6,000 jobs in total when you consider the main jobs in the plant,” said Sen. Jeff Van Drew.

Gov. Phil Murphy has insisted the bill also subsidize solar and renewable power. That has thrown a wrench into getting the bill passed.

“I think there’s some more issues that have to get worked out, particularly the solar. The solar portion has some issues … They need to be corrected because you’re getting an additional facts about the solar in the state,” said Sen. Bob Smith.

“When they put in all the extra renewable energy standards, I do think are internally inconsistent and is going to be extremely expensive and hard to even attain. It just made the bill way too expensive,” said Sen. Steve Oroho.

As you know, things around here sometimes have little bumps in the road. It’s a little longer to get from point A to point B,” said Van Drew.

Another big issue that did arise Monday was creating a charitable donation workaround to the new federal tax law. State Democrats see it as a way to get around the $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions in the new tax law.

Republicans worry that the IRS will disallow the maneuver and New Jersey taxpayers will be left holding the bag.

“The measure before you was, quite frankly, a short-term measure to deal with how New Jersey taxpayers got their teeth kicked in by the scheme by Congress to eliminate our SALT deduction. And that’s why 13 out of 14 federal representatives who represent New Jersey in a bipartisan manner, voted against the SALT to eliminate the SALT deduction,” said Sen. Paul Sarlo.

“The issue with the 33 other states is that this deduction itself is worth $100 billion to the federal government in tax revenues. There is no way that the federal government is just going to turn the other cheek and to look away while it’s going to lose $100 billion in tax deductions. So, again when we put our taxpayers at risk by taking these deductions, and then afterward find out that they’re going to be levied a fine, or penalties, and maybe red flag to have an audit done. I don’t want to put my taxpayers in that position unless I know for sure. And, at this point, Mr. President, we just don’t know for sure,” said Sen. Joe Pennacchio.

The workaround passed 28 to 9. It now goes to the Assembly. The nuclear subsidy bill will be tweaked and revisited.