Tag: Economic Opportunity Act of 2013

Business Tax Incentive Bill Passes NJ Assembly

Source: NJ 101.5 -

The full New Jersey Assembly has approved a bill that one of its sponsors calls the most important business tax incentive bill in state history, but not before some serious drama.

Hours before the Assembly was to take a vote, Gov. Chris Christie conditionally vetoed the measure eliminating two major clauses.

One provision called for a prevailing wage for building maintenance workers and the other called for a prevailing wage for certain construction workers

By modernizing and improving our already successful economic development programs, we are sending a powerful message to private sector employers that New Jersey is open for business,” said Christie. “With my minor yet important improvements incorporated, I look forward to swiftly signing this bill into law, and helping boost our economy for everyone.”

Assemblyman Albert Coutinho, one of the bill’s sponsors, said he expected the conditional veto, but that doesn’t mean he’s happy about it. “I was disappointed, but I’m trying to stay focused on the big picture,” explained Coutnho. “We will continue the fight for a living wage for all New Jerseyans, but with this bill we will be creating more jobs in the meantime. That is something we can all support.”

The New Jersey Economic Opportunity Act of 2013 consolidates five of New Jersey’s financial incentive programs for business development into two. Under the amended bill, the state’s Economic Development Authority (EDA) will oversee and administer the Grow New Jersey Assistance Program and the Economic Redevelopment and Growth Grant Program.

“Simplifying several of the state’s business incentive programs under one umbrella is a common sense way to make New Jersey a more business-friendly state,” said Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick. “The new structure condenses the state’s incentive programs, makes it easier for companies to participate and more efficient for the government to administer. This bill will help in the effort to create jobs across our state.”

The legislation also provides that the Economic Redevelopment and Growth Grant program will become the state’s only redeveloper incentive program and will assist in closing financing gaps encountered in new or redevelopment projects.

The bill now heads to the State Senate for consideration.

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Christie veto pushes NJ incentives bill ahead

Source: Bergen Record -

The Assembly quickly approved legislation Monday that would revamp New Jersey programs that have awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate tax breaks in recent years after Governor Christie deleted several provisions.

Christie issued a conditional veto on the bill before 9 a.m., ready for an Assembly meeting scheduled to start at 10 a.m. The Assembly, which is controlled by Democrats, approved the revised bill 70-6, with five Republicans and one Democrat opposing the bill. The bill would overhaul the main programs with which New Jersey has awarded more than $2 billion in corporate incentives intended to stimulate the creation and retention of jobs in New Jersey.

The overhaul would dismantle three of the state’s biggest incentive programs and retool the remaining two, Grow New Jersey and Economic Redevelopment and Growth.

“With my minor yet important improvements incorporated, I look forward to swiftly signing this bill into law, and helping boost our economy,” said Christie, applauding legislators from both parties for the bi-partisan effort.

Sen. Ray Lesniak, D-Union, the main sponsor in the Senate, said the Senate will likely vote on the amended legislation Thursday, adding that he expects it to pass. If so, the bill would then go back to Christie for final approval. One of the measures removed by the governor’s conditional veto required that maintenance workers on projects that are supported by incentives be paid prevailing – usually union-level – wages.

A second measure removed would have granted extra incentives to projects that retooled former hospital buildings for other uses. Assemblyman John McKeon, D-Essex, said he agreed with 90 percent of the bill but voted no out of concern that it would grant incentives to projects that would develop the Pinelands and Highlands.

Assemblyman Jay Webber, R-Morris, said he opposed the bill because he believes the state needs “broad-based tax relief,” not programs that enables the state to pick winners and losers. “The bill is corporate welfare,” he said. “It benefits big business at the expense of small businesses and workers.”

Christie also removed from the bill a section that required construction workers on incentive-supported projects to be paid prevailing wages. But Christie’s office, and Assemblyman Albert Coutinho, D-Union, the main assembly sponsor, said the veto would mean no change on the issue because earlier legislation required construction workers on all state incentive-supported projects to be paid prevailing wages.

Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak said the governor vetoed the section boosting the rehabilitation of former hospital buildings because he did not want to give “special treatment for repurposed health care facility projects over other worthy projects.”

The clause designed to provide incentives that would retool former hospitals grew out of a bill with a similar goal introduced by Sen. Robert Gordon, D-Fair Lawn, who said he wanted to help retool 26 hospitals around the state that closed, mainly due to changing trends in the healthcare industry. They include hospitals in Jersey City, Elizabeth and Trenton.

The legislation was prompted by the development of the former Barnert Memorial Hospital in Paterson, which closed in 2008 after declaring bankruptcy and was redeveloped into the Barnert Medical Arts Complex in Paterson. The complex includes several doctor’s offices, two outpatient surgery centers, an adult day-care center and the Turning Point drug-treatment facility.

The project offered “an example of what can happen when these facilities are in effect recycled,” said Gordon, adding that he is hopeful he can work with the governor to get approval for his own bill that would stimulate the development of former hospitals.

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Assembly Supports Conditional Veto of Economic Opportunity Act

Source: NJ Spotlight -

Fourteen months to the day after first introducing A-3680, Assemblyman Al Coutinho (D-Newark) welcomed the passage of legislation he calls the most significant overhaul to the state’s business incentives in legislative history.

“We’ve spent a lot of time crafting this bill, and while no bill is perfect, when all is said and done we’ll have reformed economic development incentives to make them more effective, kept jobs in the state, helped small businesses, set in motion plans to bring more jobs into New Jersey and ensured economic growth occurs in all areas of the state, including places where development has been stagnant for years,” he said in a statement.

Several hours after Gov. Chris Christie issued an expected conditional veto of the bill, members of the Assembly consented to the conditional veto and passed the legislation by a vote of 70 to 6. John McKeon (D-Madison) was the only dissenting Democrat; the remaining five were Republicans. Coutinho characterized them as leaning Libertarian who frequently vote against bills that continue or expand the government’s taxation practices.

“This act is really just corporate welfare aimed at a select few,” said Jay Webber (R-Parsippany) minutes after the vote. “What we need is broad-based tax relief aimed at everybody . . . not just those who can afford to hire lobbyists.”

The Senate is expected to consent to the governor’s conditional veto during a scheduled vote on Thursday afternoon, in spite of the fact that primary sponsor Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) is disappointed that after more than a year of behind-the-scenes debate, the final bill contains what he believes to be untenable affordable housing requirements for developers who would have liked to take advantage of the new incentives to build in small, lower-income cities like Trenton, Camden and Passaic.

As anticipated, Christie did not veto the affordable housing provision and instead vetoed two others yesterday morning: one that awarded tax credits to hospital redevelopment projects and another that mandated a prevailing wage for building-services employees in facilities housing offices that receive program credits.

“With these minor, but important, modifications incorporated, I look forward to swiftly signing this bill,” Christie wrote in his veto message to legislators.

Focusing instead on what the bill does include rather than what it doesn’t, Coutinho summarized that in his view, it accomplishes three main goals. First, it consolidates five existing incentive programs into two. Second, by arming the job-growth program with powerful tools to compete with neighbhoring states, it changes the focus of the programs from capital investment to job creation and expands their reach to include more small and medium companies. Finally, it incorporates smart-growth philosophies in determining areas targeted for development.

More specifically, the act preserves the Grow New Jersey Assistance Program, which rewards companies for creating and retaining jobs (particularly in certain high growth-potential sectors like aviation) and the Economic Redevelopment and Growth Grant Program, which incentivizes redevelopment of aging urban centers, suburban office parks, transit hubs, and the like.

The programs also expand eligibility to a wider geographic area and to small- to medium-sized companies while favoring those newly locating in New Jersey over those seeking to relocate within its borders.

In addition, the programs lower eligibility thresholds for certain types of businesses building in the state’s most impoverished cities, Sandy-ravaged areas, and in all eight South Jersey counties. The South Jersey bonuses threatened to derail approval of the bill for a time earlier this year but ultimately north Jersey opponents acquiesced

It’s unusual for a legislative body to so quickly consent to a conditional veto — and indeed, there was no floor debate before yesterday’s vote — but Coutinho said that’s a testament to the fact that he and his co-sponsors in both houses have spent months exhaustively vetting the bill and compromising with stakeholders, the governor, and skeptical members of their own caucuses. By yesterday’s vote, there were no surprises.

“The situation is somewhat strange,” Coutinho said, “but we knew the conditional veto was coming, and that shows the level of cooperation [involved in moving this bill].”

Calling himself “disappointed, not surprised,” at the conditional veto, Coutinho added, “We can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” and predicted that members of the Assembly will work on using the upcoming lame duck session to move separate prevailing wage legislation.

However, New Jersey Policy Perspective, a nonprofit think tank that has been critical of the legislation, released a statement denouncing the governor for removing the prevailing wage section. “There were plenty of ways the governor could have used his veto pen to make this reform of New Jersey’s business tax subsidy programs stronger, smarter and more effective. Instead, he used his veto power to remove one of the few positive elements of the legislation: a prevailing wage standard that would have ensured that the New Jersey tax dollars invested in these subsidy projects help a wider array of workers. What the governor has done is take a bad piece of legislation and make it even worse,” wrote president Gordon MacInnes.

The small-government Americans for Prosperity distributed its own release, this one applauding Christie for striking prevailing wage but castigating him for failing to veto the entire bill. “New Jersey is not miraculously going to see jobs created just because we’re offering a better deal than the next state. New Jersey’s terrible business climate is not going to suddenly improve because a select few received a break at the expense of the many,” wrote deputy state director Daryn Iwicki. “The fact of the matter is Trenton’s big-government policies are killing jobs and resulting in economic malaise.”

Before and after the vote, Coutinho spent most of his defensive efforts attempting to counter an argument put forth by the environmental preservation community that decries the bill’s failure to de-incentivize companies that encroach on eco-sensitive lands.

As written in a statement by New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel, “There are projects that would never happen without this bill. This bill targets rural areas, farmland and environmentally sensitive lands because they could never get the financing or the costs of bringing in infrastructure like sewer lines would be too expensive. . . . This bill is a threat to the Highlands, Pinelands, and our drinking water.”

However, Coutinho repeatedly told reporters yesterday that the bill does not allow developers to legally access any land not previously available to them.

He also accepted the congratulations, thanks and well-wishes of colleagues who learned over the weekend that he will not be seeking re-election. This spring, the 44-year old suffered from cardiac arrest as he tried to gather consensus for the bill among his members and push it to a vote.

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Bramnick-Bucco New Jersey Economic Opportunity Act of 2013 Approved by Assembly

Source: Assembly Republican Press Release

Bipartisan legislation sponsored by Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick and Deputy Assembly Republican Leader Anthony M. Bucco, known as “The Economic Opportunity Act of 2013” that consolidates five of New Jersey’s financial incentive programs for business development into two was approved by the Assembly today.

Under the amended bill, A-3680, the state’s Economic Development Authority (EDA) will oversee and administer the Grow New Jersey Assistance Program and the Economic Redevelopment and Growth Grant Program.

“Simplifying several of the state’s business incentive programs under one umbrella is a common sense way to make New Jersey a more business-friendly state,” said Bramnick, R-Union, Morris and Somerset. “The new structure condenses the state’s incentive programs, makes it easier for companies to participate and more efficient for the government to administer. This bill will help in the effort to create jobs across our state.”

The Grow New Jersey Assistance Program is designed to attract and retain companies in the state by awarding tax credits for each new or retained full time job per year up to 10 years. Bucco was a sponsor of the legislation creating the program that was signed into law in January 2012.

“Streamlining the programs that are designed to retain and create jobs, as well as spur investment in our state, will make it easier to grow our economy,” said Bucco, R-Morris and Somerset. “Condensing the number of business incentive vehicles offered by the State will enable the EDA to manage its resources more effectively and efficiently while maintaining its primary goal of keeping New Jersey competitive with surrounding states and the global marketplace.”

The legislation also provides that the Economic Redevelopment and Growth Grant program will become the state’s only redeveloper incentive program and will assist in closing financing gaps encountered in new or redevelopment projects.

“We must continue to focus on working with the private sector on creating good-paying jobs and encouraging them to invest in a state that offers great economic opportunities,” commented Bucco. “Government can successfully partner with the private sector in the effort to capitalize on our market potential which is what these programs are designed to accomplish.”

The bill phases out the provisions of the Business Retention and Relocation Assistance Grant Program, the Business Employment Incentive Program, and the Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit Program, all of which are also administered by the EDA.

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Not guilty of hijinks

Source: Star Ledger (letter to the editor – Jack Ciattarelli)

The recent op-ed (“Hijinks in Trenton when nobody’s watching,” July 24) by Elliot Ruga, senior policy analyst for the New Jersey Highlands Coalition, certainly made clear his concern for the Economic Opportunity Act of 2013. The column also revealed his frustration with this legislation’s advancement, causing him to inappropriately paint all legislators with a very broad brush.

Ruga was right to point out Assemblyman Albert Coutinho’s (D-Essex) efforts in introducing legislation that promotes economic development in a smart growth and environmentally sensitive way.

There’s no questioning the legislation has changed since Coutinho’s introduction. That doesn’t necessarily mean the legislation is now perfectly unacceptable or bad for New Jersey.

Ruga was wrong, however, to cynically state only lobbyists get a “legislator’s undivided attention”; that his organization’s “limited budget” denies him access. I know that is not the case for many legislators, this one included, and one whom Ruga never contacted.

There is a pervasive cynicism and despondency at work today, especially specific to government and elected officials. Anyone in a leadership position, as Ruga is, should work to mitigate that pervasiveness, not exacerbate it.

Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-Somerset), Somerville

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