Accountants Rank Issues for NJ’s Next Governor to Tackle — Guess What’s Number One
Turns out certified public accountants are just like the rest of us in New Jersey.
The New Jersey Society of CPAs surveyed more than 1,000 of its members this month and last, asking them to rank the issues that should be the top priorities of the next governor. Atop that list is property taxes.
Nearly 31 percent of CPAs say the top priority for the next governor should be to reduce property taxes. That mirrors the 30 percent of New Jerseyans who said that should be the No. 1 focus in a July poll by Monmouth University.
Seventy percent rank it in the top 5, while 80 percent of the broader public told Monmouth that cutting property taxes is very important.
“With the No. 1 thing being reduced property taxes, I would say that no one should be surprised there,” said Ralph Albert Thomas, the group’s chief executive officer and executive director.
None of the next four items on the CPAs’ suggested to-do list have to do with taxes – interesting, given that New Jersey is a high-tax state and the CPAs’ jobs involve taxes.
Improving the state’s transportation infrastructure ranked second, followed by converting public pensions to 401(k)s, auditing state agencies and programs and more mergers or shared services by towns and school districts.
“The next four items I think probably reflect the fact that our members think more than just taxes – the things that affect their clients,” Thomas said. “These probably are the things their clients are echoing to them that concern them about being in New Jersey and doing business in New Jersey.”
“I think our members are looking at what’s going to help stimulate the economy here,” Thomas said of infrastructure’s ranking. The survey option specifically mentioned roads, bridges, tunnels and public transportation. “It certainly is going to be attracting new businesses to New Jersey but I think more importantly keeping existing businesses here.”
The idea that got the second-most No. 1 votes, and ranked third overall, was converting public pensions to 401(k)s, to get a handle on the state’s costs for worker and retiree benefits.
“If they don’t move to something of that nature, then how else is the pension obligation going to be addressed?” Thomas said.
In addition to local government mergers, a second property-tax related issue made the CPAs’ top 10: modifying school funding, which ranked seventh.
The others in the Top 10 – and the 11th, for that matter – related to the state’s income, inheritance and business taxes.
Thomas said the group will next go back to its members to ask for specifics on addressing those issues.
“We’re going to ask for some suggestions because it’s not just good enough to identify the areas of pain but what could we do to bring forth ideas, actionable ideas that could be served up to the gubernatorial candidates for their consideration,” Thomas said.