Back-to-school shoppers will get a break on New Jersey's sales tax later this summer, Gov. Phil Murphy and fellow Democrats in the Legislature said Wednesday.
Murphy and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and Senate President Nicholas Scutari said they reached an agreement as part of ongoing budget negotiations to halt the state's 6.625% sales tax from Aug. 27 to Sept. 5 on school supplies.
The covered items include pens, pencils, notebooks, binders, art supplies, books and computers.
It's the second time in a week that the state's Democratic leaders announced a tax break — the fallout of a bruising statewide election last year that resulted in Democrats embracing affordability as an issue.
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A week ago, Murphy and his legislative counterparts said they'd agreed on a $2 billion property tax break for 2 million households.
High inflation and pain at the gas pump as prices hover around $5 a gallon were on the leaders' minds when they announced the sales tax holiday.
“As inflation is a central worry around many of our residents’ kitchen tables, now is the time to do it,” Murphy said. “This program will cut the cost for the most essential items needed for educational success and help make New Jersey more affordable for our students and families.”
New Jersey levies sales tax goods like cars, furniture, food prepared in restaurants and on services like auto repair and landscaping. Unprepared food and clothing are exempt from the sales tax.
Republicans are in the minority in the Legislature and don't have the votes to block the Democratic majority, but panned the decision. Tom Szymanski, the executive director of the state Republican Party, said Democratic tax holiday doesn't address underlying fiscal policy.
“All the Democrats are offering you is $0.07 cents back on a glue stick,” he said in an email.
Lawmakers estimated families spend about $250 on school supplies a year and teachers put out $600 of their own funds to buy classroom materials.
States around the country regularly have sales tax holidays for school supplies in late summer.