WESTFIELD, NJ — A “flash protest” against the tax bill, organized by Action Together New Jersey, brought dozens of people to Republican Congressman Leonard Lance’s office in Westfield Monday. It was one of several simultaneous protests held across the state.

Lance voted “no” to the bill, and said in a statement Nov. 16, “I believe tax reform should benefit all Americans and not pick winner states over loser states. Yet the House-passed proposal would negatively affect too many hard-working constituents and small businesses in my congressional district and many other parts of New Jersey. That’s why leading business groups and elected officials across the Garden State oppose this tax reform as currently drafted. We need tax reform that is fair for all Americans — including the taxpayers of New Jersey — and I will continue to work toward that goal.”

On Monday, he invited about 15 of the protesters into his office to discuss their concerns. Several times, he told his constituents that he agrees with them.

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“I will not vote for the Senate version of the bill and I did not vote for the House version of the bill,” he told the group. When pressed, Lance answered that would not vote for the bill “unless it changes dramatically.”

Asked how he can justify signing a bill without any discussion or dissent, Lance responded, “I do not justify it, and I’m unlikely to vote for it.”

Among the issues protestors had with the bill is the elimination of the deduction for state and local taxes (SALT). Lance said he wanted to see complete retention of those deductions. 

“I have fought on several fronts but the front on which I have fought most vigorously is the SALT issue because that is of great deal of importance, in my opinion, to New Jersey,” he told the group.

Lance also said he did not want to see the deficit increase.

“I’m a budget hawk. That is my reputation in New Jersey. I’m New Jersey’s leading opponent of borrowing without voter approval,” he said. “I don’t like to see deficits increase at all.”

Lance said that he thinks corporate taxes should be lowered.

“There’s a debate on that, but I would lower it,” he said. “But I would prefer that it be similar to what small businesses are likely to pay — the so-called pass-throughs.”

Outside, Shelly Morningstar, chair of the Mount Olive Democrats and spokesperson for Action Together New Jersey said she was pleased to hear that Lance committed to voting no on the bill.  As a single mom who works as a freelance communications specialist, she noted that she and her daughter receive health care from the Affordable Care Act.

“I encourage him to use his leadership with his colleagues in Congress to send this tax bill back for full bipartisan deliberation that will aid middle class families, hard-working New Jersey residents and low-income families,” Morningstar said. “If this tax bill is passed as-is, our family will no longer have health care, nor will I be able to itemize health care premiums and business expenses, and it will directly impact and increase my state and local taxes. This bill is devastating to millions of New Jerseyans and Americans.”