Senate Approves Testa Bill Exempting Commercial Fisherman from State Unemployment Tax

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Small fishing seiner goes to fish in coastal waters. Sea of Japan.

Legislation approved today by the Senate and sponsored by Senator Michael Testa would exempt commercial fisherman from a portion of the state unemployment tax.

Legislation approved by the Senate and sponsored by Sen. Michael Testa would exempt commercial fisherman from state unemployment tax. (Pixabay)

“Currently, New Jersey’s commercial fishermen are on the hook for unemployment taxes, but they are not paid hourly wages and they have never been able to collect unemployment benefits,” said Testa (R-1). “This bill will have significant impact on the state’s vital fishing industry that has been extremely hard-hit by the pandemic.”

Testa’s bill (S-3501) would exempt commercial fisherman who are paid on the percentage of fish caught or a percentage of the selling price of those fish from the state unemployment law and its costly tax on earnings.

“It will allow dedicated, skilled fisherman to keep more of their hard-earned income, a change that suits the independent nature of the proud individuals who make their living at sea,” Testa noted.

The Garden State’s fishing industry is one of the most robust in the United States, and the Port of Cape May consistently ranks in Top 10 in the nation.

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New Jersey fisheries contribute more than $1 billion annually to the state’s economy, with some estimates doubling that total.

“The fishing industry is vitally important to the entire state, but here in the coastal communities, it is the very lifeblood of small communities up and down the shoreline,” said Testa. “After a challenging year, this bill signifies a changing tide for our fisheries.”