During a meeting with the Asbury Park Press editorial board, US Congressman Donald Norcross promotes his plan to raise the federal minimum wage.
Thomas P. Costello
NEPTUNE – Though details are still under wraps, President Donald Trump has hinted that his plan for middle-class tax relief would be paid for in part by reducing federal deductions for state and local taxes and mortgage interest.
Those are changes that U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross, D-N.J., says would especially sock New Jerseyans who pay the highest property taxes in the nation.
Republican leaders in the U.S. Senate are set to reveal the details of the tax overhaul plan Sept. 25. The Trump administration proposed in April eliminating the federal deduction for state and local taxes.
Norcross, the brother of George Norcross, the Democratic leader in South Jersey, told the Asbury Park Press editorial board Tuesday it would in effect be a tax increase for many in the Garden State.
“I haven’t seen the details. I don’t think anyone has” Norcross said of the Trump plan. “But here’s the remarkable thing: There are so many trial balloons that go out to see what kind of reaction there is. One thing he’s talked about off the bat, and I’m shocked that it’s from somebody that’s from New York City, is the local property tax deduction.”
New York’s state property taxes are the seventh highest in the nation, but New Jersey has the biggest mean bill at $8,549 in 2016 plus the highest effective tax rate at 2.31 percent, according to an ATTOM Data Solutions study published by RealtyTrac.com.
“Republicans have taken runs at removing this – the mortgage deduction and property tax deduction – for a number of years because they see it as a Democrat benefit,” Norcross said. “Well, tell that to your friends and neighbors. The deduction is about helping those who are paying these taxes. It’s the one deduction many people have.”
Norcross said he’s in favor of reviewing all tax code deductions “to see if they’re still relevant, but this is one that is certainly relevant, and we will be fighting for.”
Future U.S. senator?
Norcross, a former state senator who has been representing New Jersey’s 1st Congressional District (comprised of Camden County and parts of Gloucester and Burlington counties) since 2014, is being talked about as a successor to U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez.
But Norcross didn’t want to talk about whether Menendez should resign from the Senate if he’s convicted at his ongoing trial. Menendez is charged with intervening with federal regulators on behalf of a friend and campaign donor, Dr. Salomon Melgen, in exchange for gifts and political contributions.
“Bob Menendez has been an incredible advocate for New Jersey, helping us in so many ways. We’re going to let the judicial system work itself through the way it should be for any American and then we’ll deal with it from there,” Norcross aid.
Norcross, however, in March had called on Trump to ask for Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ resignation, in reaction to revelations that Sessions had communicated with Russian diplomats at the GOP convention, apparently perjuring himself in Senate testimony.
Norcross said he didn’t see an equivalency.
“In Jeff Sessions, we’re dealing with policy issues, and dealing with racism, and dealing with some of the things he had said. So asking somebody (Sessions) to step down in that case, and somebody who’s working themselves through a judicial process (Menendez) is very different,” Norcross said.
Raising the minimum wage
Norcross said the federal minimum wage — $7.25 an hour since 2009 — no longer covers basic living expenses. He’s the co-sponsor of a bill that would increase the wage incrementally to $15 an hour over seven years.
The bill has over a hundred other sponsors, but none of them are Republicans, who control both houses.
Norcross said he has some optimism that Trump during the presidential campaign said he’d support raising the minimum to $10 an hour. But at another point, Trump said the current minimum is “too high.”
“The fact of the matter is, America needs a raise,” Norcross said.
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