Small business owners see tax increase as way to repay state unemployment loan

A small business tax increase took effect on July 1, much to the chagrin of business owners around New Jersey. The increase will help the state pay back the money it borrowed from the federal government for unemployment benefits.
But small business owners say that they want to know why the Murphy administration is not using federal stimulus money or the budget surplus to help them.
“The mortgage comes every month. PSE&G comes every month. So you just have to figure out ways to kind of make ends meet so you can keep your doors open,” says Robert Pluta, owner of Leonardo’s II.
New Jersey paid tens of billions of dollars in unemployment benefits to laid-off workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The state took a loan from the federal government to keep the fund afloat. The state needs to repay that loan by November and for now, New Jersey’s small businesses will help repay it.
“The business community is not feeling any love now, and it’s not fair,” says Michele Siekerka, president and CEO of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association.
Siekerka says that she is baffled by the fact that lawmakers did not pass the fix that could have kept the increase away by giving businesses tax credits. The measure passed the state Assembly unanimously, but stalled in the state Senate in late June, right before the summer recess.
“I cannot for the life of me understand why that is so complex and convoluted,” Siekerka says.
Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday said that New Jersey has committed to helping small businesses, with $800 million given since the pandemic began.
“I want to make sure we keep pushing resources toward small businesses, that we get the highest bank for our buck,” Murphy said.
But some small business owners say that the state and its leaders are not doing enough.
“As we small business owners are bussing tables, washing dishes, taking care of our customers - and [the governor] completely ignored the needs of us. He's making it a very business-unfriendly state,” Pluta says.
“[Gov. Murphy] just left us hanging there with nothing. All this money and nothing,” Siekerka says.
The Murphy administration said on Wednesday that $50 million of the state budget is going to Main Street recovery.
Pluta ran for Lawrence Township Council as a Republican in 2017 and 2019. He was elected to the Lawrence School Board last year.