Trenton is consumed today with George Norcross’ testimony about the controversial tax subsidy scheme that lavishes huge tax breaks for rich companies. He wants more.
(Trenton) – Into the room he strode to a cascading chorus of revelers chanting “FBI” but George Norcross didn’t appear too ruffled. He sat there with an awkward smile on his face while scanning the room for a friendly face.
But Mr. Norcross had plenty of support today, too. The room is pack mostly with Norcross acolytes. Mr Norcross, the don of Camden’s County Democrats, is a huge proponent of lavish tax subsides for politically connected corporations including his own.
The room is a crackling with tension as Mr Norcross awaited his time at the microphone. There was a long break between Mr Norcross’ entrance and Senator Bob Smith gaveling in the hearing. Smith accused critics of corporate welfare with creating a political stunt which is ironic since he’s literally the ringleader of today’s political stunt.
The first witness is Charles Wowkanech the AFL-CIO but he’s definitely not why we’re here today. He’s reading from a statement and everyone looks bored. He’s citing cherry-picked figures to justify more tax incentives for rich, politically wired firms.
Richard Smith from the NAACP NJ State Conference was up next.
“There is no better branding, none, for civil rights and equal opportunity than the NAACP,” Mr Smith noted. He’s probably right.
He laments this issue becoming a political football while he himself plays political football in front of a packed crowd. He cites job growth in Camden while offering little evidence to back that claims. He made a big deal out of jobs despite most of the good jobs going to to folks who live in places like Cherry Hill.
Mercifully, Mr Smith’s testimony was more lively than the guy from AFL CIO. That said, I’ve never heard anyone characterize corporate welfare as a social justice issue.🤯
Senator Declan O’Scanlon asked why there’s a perceptions that these tax breaks only help the wealthy. Mr Wowkanech replied that you can’t please everyone and cited anecdotal progress.
When Mr Wowkanech finished dodging the question, the crowd booed and chairman Smith tossed them out because apparently, only supporters are welcome here today.
Suddenly State Troopers manhandled Sue Altman from New Jersey Working Families and dragged her from the hearing because of the boos that greeted the last speaker. This is chaos. This is Jerry Springer personified.
”It’s okay to applaud but not to boo,” one spectator shouted, rhetorically.
The next panel called these tax breaks an incomplete solution. It almost sounded like constructive criticism but it quickly lapsed into more praise about these tax schemes that favor the rich and powerful.
”This doesn’t have a requirement for local businesses,” the speaking noted, urging the panel to codify the benefits for the little guys. Presently, any actual benefit for mom-and-pops is purely a happy coincidence. Why was this never codified in the first place. Meanwhile $11,000,000,000 later.
Senator O’Scanlon asked again if the rosy view presented today is shared by all.
The question was ignored again, this time in favor of a diatribe about job skills.
Senator Joe Lagana asked about Camden’s unemployment numbers which are higher than neighboring towns but lower than it once was. The speaker blames many of Camden’s problems on drug-addicted suburbanites who come to Camden to score their drugs. He’s not totally wrong although I’m not sure what that has to do with corporate welfare.
George Norcross came next to cheers of “kangaroo court!”
And then he spoke. First he thanked Richard Smith from the NAACP. Will he mention the food desert? The poverty facing most Camden residents? I’m guessing no.
The most important thing that can happen in Camden is increased employment opportunities, Mr Norcross said. He’s ready to “correct” the naysayers and detractors.
“Nothing would have happened in Camden without these tax incentives,” Norcoss said, noting Camden’s “stunning renaissance” and “remarkable progress.”
Renaissance for who? Progress for who?
Companies like NJ America Water, Holtec International, and other bluechip, billion dollar firms.
“The first step was to make the city safer,” Mr Norcross said, noting it was possible to score drug and a hooker and get murdered all on the same block. He’s right but yikes,
Camden is safer by most metrics but it’s still not safe.
Norcross played up “school choice” which is no surprise given his crew’s antipathy toward NJ public schools.
“Camden is safer than it’s been in 50 year,” Boss Norcross said.
And George Norcross is richer and more powerful than ever.
No wonder he’s satisfied with the status quo.