Majority of NJ CPAs Oppose Public Bank Proposal, According to Survey

A survey released this week indicates that an overwhelming majority of the state’s certified public accountants (CPAs) oppose Governor Phil Murphy’s proposed public bank.

The NJ Society of CPAs’ (NJCPA) survey conducted in November found 85 percent of the 489 members who responded do not like the idea of the state establishing a public-owned bank. The survey was conducted in response to Governor Murphy setting up a 14-member Public Bank Implementation Board (Executive Order No. 91) to develop a plan for such an endeavor within one year.

Murphy signed the executive order in a public ceremony at the Newark offices of NJ Citizen Action, the leading advocate for a public bank. 

The 14-member board is chaired by NJ Department of Banking & Insurance Commissioner Marlene Caride with nine other members coming government and four from the public. There is no industry representation on the board.

The board held its first meeting this week and is required to submit its report to the governor within one-year. It must hold at least three public meetings.

The public bank, which would be funded by taxpayers, would lend to small businesses, students and municipalities looking to improve infrastructure or build affordable housing. Any profit would funnel back into the state’s funds.

Survey respondents who opposed the concept noted that credit unions, which provide similar borrowing opportunities, are already available throughout the state. They also cited their distaste for having state government in the banking industry, where taxpayers could be forced to subsidize such an enterprise. Respondents also believed the state government’s full attention needs to focus on fixing the pension and health benefit obligations that plague the state currently.

Those in favor of the idea (10%) noted that perhaps it could attract younger people into the state to start businesses, noting such a bank could assist both millennials and Generation Z in obtaining loans for businesses or housing.

“Surveys like these are a good indicator of what CPAs and their clients — who are often small business owners — believe will impact the economic landscape of the state,” said Ralph Albert Thomas, CPA (DC), CGMA, CEO and executive director at the NJCPA. “While better borrowing opportunities are always in demand, the survey shows some concerns exist for safeguarding the funds.”