And Lesniak says if Christie wants to boost his White House credentials, he needs to do more to create jobs and address affordable housing needs in the state. One way to start, Lesniak says, is by giving his blessing on the Economic Opportunity Act II, a new round of business incentives Lesniak is sponsoring.
“I do expect bipartisan support because we still lag behind the region and nation in job creation,” Lesniak said.
The latest package of incentives is follow-up legislation to the much-heralded Economic Opportunity Act of 2013, which Christie signed into law in September.
The Act II bill was introduced Thursday before the Senate Economic Growth Committee and features both new elements and some previously removed from the original act through a conditional veto issued by Christie.
The package includes five key elements:
- AFFORDABLE HOUSING SET-ASIDE: A relaxation of a requirement that a developer set aside 20 percent of new residential units for low- or moderate-income homes, instead granting municipalities the ability to determine what percentage of newly-constructed units are to be reserved for those income levels.
Lesniak says this speaks straight to some of the state’s poorer, urban communities, where he says the mandatory set-aside has been a “disincentive to produce any housing in those areas.” It is a provision Lesniak had originally fought to embed in the first incentives bill, but declined to press for due to concern of stalling the legislation further.
- FILM: Coined as the “Garden State Film and Digital Media Jobs Act,” a section that includes an increase of the annual program cap from $10 million to $50 million for film production tax credits and an increase from $5 million to $10 million in credits for digital media productions. The act will also up the current 20 percent tax credit limit on eligible production expenses to 22 percent if those purchases are made in businesses located in one of the state’s Urban Enterprise Zones.
In support of the act, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop testified before the Senate panel last week, stressing that expanding the state’s film industry incentives would not only benefit his city, but be a job creator statewide. Both Fulop and Lesniak say it’s a necessary step in ensuring that industry jobs have a home in New Jersey, as opposed to New York, where similar incentives also are readily available.
In 2011, Christie vetoed a similar film incentives bill that Democrats unsuccessfully attempted to override.