TOMS RIVER - Cordiality between Governor-elect Phil Murphy and shore Congressman Tom MacArthur (R-3) almost lasted a week and a half, at least where taxation issues are concerned.

Representative Tom MacArthur (Alexander Heller, Ocean County College)

The two-term Republican today issued an open invitation to the Democrat who'll lead the state, to discuss their disparate views on who pays what in New Jersey's, and America's, emerging fiscal landscapes.

What form that discussion would take, in public or behind closed doors, is open to conjecture, but MacArthur invited Murphy to the Third Congressional District, either Ocean or Burlington County.

Granting his first up-close interview since his election, Murphy told News 12 New Jersey this past weekend that he couldn't fathom why MacArthur voted in favor of the federal tax plan that opponents believe will favor the super-rich at the expense of the working poor. MacArthur was alone among his New Jersey Congressional peers.

MacArthur oversaw provisions in the bill to retain property tax deductions up to $10,000, which he said "covers the vast majority of people in South Jersey." Those with higher property taxes, he added, often file Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), "and the very first thing you lose," he said, "is your state and local tax deduction."

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MacArthur stressed that accurately gauging tax reform requires a large focus. "We're trying to move from a system that has high rates, but a lot of loopholes - and a lot of people don't get to take advantage of them - to a system of much lower rates and fewer exceptions."

"I was prepared to vote no, unless we solved the state and local tax issue," MacArthur said. "We solved the property tax issue. And, yes, there is the issue of losing your state income tax deduction. But the standard deduction is doubling. So a family will have no tax on their first $24,000. The child tax credit is increased. There's a credit for people who take care of someone who isn't a child. Someone taking care of a grandparent is getting a credit."

He predicted that some wage earners reporting as much as $150,000 would fare as well, if not better, under the standard deduction than by itemizing, and that those who itemize wouldn't have the same deduction, but also "wouldn't have the AMT which has been taking it away from them."

MacArthur faces a challenge in 2018 from Burlington County Democrat Andy Kim, a former defense advisor to President Barack Obama's administration.

MacArthur's letter:

"Dear Governor-Elect Murphy,

The day after you were elected, I was pleased to talk with you and agree to work together to improve the lives of New Jerseyans, while refraining from taking cheap political shots at each other. I thought we had a good conversation and remain hopeful we can have a productive working relationship. I was therefore, very disappointed by press reports that during your very first sit-down TV interview this past weekend, you chose to go after me over my sincere efforts to provide real tax relief for my constituents.

While you have promised to raise taxes on New Jerseyans by $1.3 billion dollars, the bill I voted for will cut taxes for the vast majority of families and businesses in our state. This bill includes a number of provisions that will benefit our residents including:

  • Increasing the child tax credit from $1,000 per child to at least $1,600
  • Creating a tax credit for those caring for non-child dependents
  • Doubling the standard deduction to $24,000 for a family  
  • Preserving a property tax deduction that will benefit all N.J. homeowners
  • Moving from a high-rate system with lots of loopholes that usually just benefit the wealthy, to a simpler, fairer system that lowers rates and closes loopholes     

Furthermore, I understand that state legislative leaders in New Jersey are already reconsidering their plans to raise taxes, which would be a welcome new direction for Trenton.

I have never shied away from a serious policy discussion and recently held a five hour town hall meeting in Willingboro, a town in which I only received 12% of the vote in the last election. In that same spirit of an open and honest dialogue, I'd like to invite you to my home county for a substantive discussion on tax policy. Let’s put the talking points aside and have a conversation about your plan to raise taxes in N.J. and my efforts for real tax reform in Washington D.C.  Our mutual constituents deserve nothing less. 

You have my cell phone number and should feel free to call me to discuss."

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