Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop discussed the significance of having civilian complaint review board and payroll tax reform bills in Trenton during an interview yesterday.
“I think that we’re thankful for the activist voices here in Jersey City that have been leading the charge on the CCRB statewide and the hope is that we get the enabling legislation to down in Trenton so we can implement a strong CCRB here in Jersey City,” the mayor said outside a fundraiser at Surf City on the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder.
“We want accountability and transparency and the things that people are asking for, from the activists, we agree with. I think those are reasonable things that would move the city forward. It’s frustrating at times that we don’t see the progress in Trenton or the openness to have those changes happen.”
The statewide legislation is sponsored by Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-31) and it cleared the Assembly Community Development and Affairs Committee in March but hasn’t moved forward since then.
The Jersey City Council unanimously approved a resolution supporting this bill on April 15th, which led to a lawsuit being filed by the city’s two police unions and Fulop came out against the court filing at the time.
The city also raised the Black Lives Matter flag outside City Hall yesterday, though not everyone appreciated the gesture, with Black Men United calling it “a bull*** solidarity performance.”
As far as the city’s payroll tax, which mandates that all local businesses are subject to a one percent tax on their gross payroll, Fulop asked the state legislature on Monday to close a loophole for businesses that evade payments.
The Jersey City BOE adopted an $814 million budget on May 10th, where it was noted that only $60 million had been certified from the payroll tax, despite initial estimates projecting $85 million, and Board President Mussab Ali had raised this concern back in March.
Fulop said yesterday that Trenton needs to play their part in helping to fund the Jersey City Public Schools given the substantial cuts they’ve received in recent years, with projections placing that figure at a whopping $200 million in 2022.
“I think that Trenton needs to understand that the draconian cuts that they’ve implemented here are unfair and unreasonable and following some arbitrary formula that they haven’t followed for years upon years and then suddenly implementing it in such an extreme way is grossly unfair to the residents here,” he explained, also noting that Jersey City contributes more to the state than any other New Jersey city.
While Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-33) has already backed Fulop’s call to move the payroll tax collection to the state, the mayor was asked if legislature leaders such as Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-19) or Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) have been a part of the conversation.
“We spoke to the speaker, he’s terrific, he’s open to exploring changes, he understands the challenges. When we first went to Trenton with this payroll tax, OLS scored it as potentially being able to get us $100 million for the municipality – it hasn’t achieved that – largely because of the lack of transparency around how many employees an individual business has,” stated Fulop.
“And the process to find that out, if you were to do subpoenas, and legal processes, on each individual business it would ultimately take years so what we need is help from Trenton in order to clean that up and that would be the easiest way to gets tens of millions of dollars into the school system.”
As for the fundraising event, the mayor’s campaign boasted nearly 600 people in attendance and around $150,000 raised, with dignitaries such as state Senator (D-32)/North Bergen Mayor Nick Sacco, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise, Hudson County Commissioner Chair Anthony Vainieri (D-8), Commissioner Kenny Kopacz (D-1), Commissioner Anthony Romano (D-5), and Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis all making appearances.
Fulop and his nine-person council slate, which includes seven incumbents, have nine out of the possible 10 challengers declared for the November 2nd non-partisan races.
Jersey City author and youth mentor Lewis Spears has filed the paperwork to challenge Fulop in that contest, and though he has not yet said anything about his candidacy, he previously called the mayor “an inept leader” on Facebook about a month ago.
Fulop said he wasn’t interested in standing and trading at this time after his campaign fired the first shot last week, indicating that he’s confident what he and his team has accomplished.
“Look, I’m not gonna say anything bad. I’m gonna say is that elections are about choices and I’m looking forward to speaking about the things that we’ve done. I’m really proud of our accomplishments … and we think that when we go out and we make the case, voters are gonna say that we earned the opportunity to continue what we’re doing.”