NJCPA’s 12th Annual Convention & Expo a Success
by Kathleen Hoffelder, content editor, NJCPA –
June 29, 2017
More than 600 CPAs and other financial professionals descended on the Borgata Hotel in Atlantic City for NJCPA’s 12th Annual Convention & Expo on June 14 to 16, 2017. Aptly dubbed “Steadying the Course,” the Convention brought members, nonmembers and academia together to discuss topics ranging from solving school funding issues to battling high state property taxes and New Jersey’s pension liabilities.
Attendees heard leadership tactics and inspirational messages from Bill Rancic, winner of The Apprentice, entrepreneur and author; Captain Larry Brudnicki, the former Coast Guard captain associated with The Perfect Storm rescue (which the book/movie were largely based on); Gene Marks, CPA, The Marks Group, P.C.; and motivational speaker and best-selling author John O’Leary.
New Jersey Senator Steven V. Oroho (R) took part in an economic roundtable discussion with G. Scott Clemons, chief investment strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman, and Michael Symons, statehouse bureau chief for NJ 101.5, which was moderated by Ralph Albert Thomas, CGMA and executive director at the NJCPA.
More than 65 exhibitors were on hand to display new virtual solutions, technology enhancements, or improved customer service offerings. Attendees were also treated to evenings of cocktails, dinner, dueling piano shows, and dancing.
NJCPA Economic Roundtable Tackles Tax, Pensions and School Funding
by Kathleen Hoffelder, content editor, NJCPA –
June 23, 2017
Panelists at an NJCPA Business & Economic Roundtable last week tackled tough questions about New Jersey’s taxes, pension liabilities and school funding during its 2017 Annual Convention in Atlantic City. New Jersey Senator Steven V. Oroho (R-24); G. Scott Clemons, CFA, chief investment officer, Brown Brothers Harriman & Co.; and New Jersey 101.5’s Statehouse bureau chief Michael Symons were on hand.
As New Jersey’s estate tax is set to phase out on January 1, 2018, the issue is still a contentious one, with concerns about the tax being reinstated under a new administration. The state is among those that have both an inheritance tax and an estate tax. According to the Tax Foundation, “of the six states with the inheritance taxes, Kentucky and New Jersey have the highest top rates at 16 percent.”
The estate tax remains a key factor in people leaving the state, noted Senator Oroho. “People are not going away just for the good weather,” he said, admitting however that “there will always be some people that want to bring back the tax in the state.”
But any restoration of the estate tax could lead to higher borrowing costs, explained panelist G. Scott Clemons. He said the issue “matters from an investment perspective in an interesting, sort of tertiary way.” According to Clemons, “taxpayers have feet and they can use those feet. They can move to Naples, for example.” When a state has population outflow, he explained, it can impact municipal bonds – creating a lot of ripple effects beyond what taxpayers alone are paying.
“I don’t think that even if it were to be restored, that it would be fully restored at the level that it used to be,” added Symons, noting that a lot of partisan differences exist on the issue.
Similarly, other state tax issues, such as having high property taxes and whether or not there should be a tax on millionaires, were also up for discussion. Property taxes in New Jersey are among the highest in the nation. Property taxes, noted Symons, is everyone’s top concern, particularly since school taxes account for 54 percent of the property tax bill, he said. “The state is short of money. For a state short of money, there are options that are going to be looked at.”
Reducing Pension Obligations
Pension obligations were also up for discussion. “It’s not a unique problem to New Jersey, obviously,” said Clemons. “Pension obligations were made in an environment in which there were higher returns available in financial markets so it was easier to make those obligations. You’ve got a situation in which the financial returns are not there…and lifespans are lengthening.”
The end result, according to Clemons, is to reduce benefits but do it in a way so it’s not particularly painful for current recipients of benefits. Clemons said the younger generation seems to be more acceptable of some changes, such as working past age 65, for example, compared to older workers.
“The public, by and large, supports making changes to pensions and health benefits,” added Symons. “When a new governor comes in, regardless of who’s elected governor, there may be an opportunity to restart those conversations with the unions.”
Leveling Out School Funding
School funding was also high on the panelists’ list of challenges for the New Jersey. “How do we fund our schools?” asks Senator Oroho. The answer, he said, is a combination of factors stemming from an analysis of different jurisdictions and specialized programs.
According to Oroho, there are three particular areas to be fixed, which include: special education, student population in the schools, and those involved in the federally-funded National School Lunch Program. “We need to have a fair school funding formula that keeps our boards of education held accountable if there’s a drop in enrollment.”