New Jersey Limo Sales Tax Repeal Faces Political Hurdles

LCT Staff
Posted on January 19, 2011

NOTHING PERSONAL: An executive branch vs. legislative branch struggle has a measure providing operators with much needed sales tax relief in potential limbo.

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — After receiving unanimous state Senate support and indications of strong support in the state Assembly, a measure to repeal the hated 7% tax on limousine service may become a pawn in a showdown between the Republican governor and the Democratic-dominated state legislature.

LIMOUSINE ASSOCIATIONS OF NEW JERSEY executive director and lobbyist Barry Lefkowitz said he is asking LANJ members to contact enough state legislators for their support in case an override vote is needed to overcome a veto from Gov. Chris Christie.

Christie, a fiscally conservative pro-business Republican, is not opposed to the measure per se but has vowed to veto all legislation unless the Democratic-led chambers support his proposals for state pension reform, binding arbitration, and civil service reform, said Lefkowitz in an interview Tuesday following a LANJ meeting in New Brunswick.

“We’re caught in politics between the Governor and the Legislature over other issues,” Lefkowitz said. “We’re a pawn in a political game of chicken. We’re aware of the other politics going on. That will just have to play out. We’ll have to work hard. I’ve met with the Governor’s chief of staff [Dec. 7, 2010], and in terms of criteria for a bill, we meet that criteria. But it gets down to other battles.”

To ensure an override majority, the measure will need support from at least 27 state Senators and 57 Assembly representatives, Lefkowitz said. That requires getting support from at least a handful of Republican legislators in each chamber who may be reluctant to go up against the Republican Governor.

For background information on the NJ sales tax measure, click this: DETAILS OF NEW JERSEY LIMO SALES TAX AND FACT SHEET.

In separate regulatory matters, operators are facing hassles at the Atlantic City, N.J. airport, which has now led to attempts by LANJ to settle matters with regulating authorities.

1) LANJ is working with Atlantic City’s City Council on drafting new ordinances for limousines and taxis to ensure that distinct licenses are issued to taxi and limousine operators and that regulations are appropriate for each transportation segment, Lefkowitz said. In some cases, taxi operators who can’t get licenses are operating under limo plates. This causes problems for operators from New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New York who regularly serve the airport and casinos. Atlantic City is the second largest casino destination in the U.S. behind Las Vegas and a big draw for limousine service.

2) LANJ officials are developing a relationship with the South New Jersey Transportation Authority, which directly supervises the airport, to resolve permitting problems plaguing operators. For example, chauffeured vehicles are prohibited from pulling up curbside in front of the airport but not vehicles driven by the general public, Lefkowitz said. Limousine operators must nevertheless pay permitting fees and daily access charges.

3) LANJ also is looking at ways to work with local authorities to deter Illegal limousine operators who are snatching business by “paying off” hotel concierges, and exchanging hand signals to allow their vehicles to the front of service/pick-up lines.

A scheduled speaker for Tuesday’s meeting, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadango, was unable to appear because of snow-related weather conditions. Her presentation has been rescheduled for the next LIMOUSINE ASSOCIATIONS OF NEW JERSEY meeting, to be held in mid-March at Empire Coachworks International in East Brunswick, N.J.

— Martin Romjue, LCT editor

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