Jersey City Mayor Touts Tax Record, Port Authority Fight

By John Celock

A potential 2017 candidate for New Jersey governor is touting his record in decreasing local taxes while fighting for more from a powerful transportation agency in a new video.

Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop (D) used his weekly video message to highlight an ongoing lawsuit with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to obtain what he says is $400 million the agency owes to his community. Fulop also used the video to highlight his 2014 record, along with touting his plans not to hike taxes this year.

“I spoke about how much progress we’ve made in reducing unemployment, bringing new development to our city while making sure thousands of our neighbors have access to health care through the ACA,” Fulop said, speaking of themes he highlighted in his State of the City address last week. “And are able to take time off to care for a sick loved one by Jersey City being the first in the state to adopt paid sick leave.”

Fulop used the video to announce that the budget proposal he will be submitting to the City Council would not contain a tax hike. He noted that last year he lowered taxes by 2.1 percent.

“That was doable or the second year the city’s tax base grew by a lot,” Fulop said. “We are also changing the way the budget is developed by using a more multiyear forecast.”

In terms of the Port Authority, Fulop noted that a judge ruled against the transportation agency’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Fulop has long been at odds with the Port Authority; a major landowner in the city, saying the agency owes unpaid taxes, penalties and fees to the local government. The Port Authority owns a variety of spaces in the city including PATH transit stations, port land and the Holland Tunnel.

In the video, Fulop noted that Port Authority holdings in the Journal Square neighborhood should be assessed at $9 million a year but the agency is paying $87,000 a year in taxes to the city.

Fulop is a likely 2017 candidate for the Democratic nomination. A Marine veteran, Fulop has been steadily gaining more statewide notice since taking office as mayor in 2013. He is likely to face state Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) and former U.S. ambassador to Germany Philip Murphy in a Democratic primary. All three were out in force during last month’s New Jersey Chamber of Commerce train trip and dinner in Washington, D.C., talking to political and business leaders from across the state who made the trip.

State Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Elizabeth), Sen. Ronald Rice (D-Newark) and Sen. Dick Codey (D-West Orange), a former governor, have also expressed interest in seeking the Democratic nod for governor that year. On the Republican side, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) are considered the two most likely contenders for the governorship. Gov. Chris Christie (R) is term-limited.

Fulop used the video to tout some of his governing philosophy. In addition to noting the new multiyear budget forecasting model and his tax cuts, he noted he was able to expand spending. Among the areas he expanded were hiring new police officers and firefighters, along with investments in parks and recreation.

“Planning for the future is the smart and responsible thing to do with taxpayer dollars,” Fulop said.