Only 20 companies that received state tax incentives have outlined their hiring practices to the Economic Development Authority as the agency seeks to determine whether and to what extent the businesses hired local residents, women and minorities.
The EDA asked 130 tax break recipients to voluntarily hand over the data.
Those companies were those that actually finished their projects, said EDA Chairman Kevin Quinn, and were among the hundreds more that the were awarded Grow New Jersey corporate tax breaks.
The 2013 legislation that created the Grow NJ program does not require the employment of local residents, women and minorities, and the EDA lacks the authority to compel force businesses to submit the data.
“It’s not clear how helpful people are being in providing that information,” Quinn said at the EDA’s Oct. 8 board meeting. “Because we’re working with flawed legislation, we’ve had to voluntarily ask companies who have benefited from the program to respond to a job survey.”
Quinn, who Gov. Phil Murphy picked to replace Lawrence Downes as chairman, has been critical of Grow NJ and a major advocate for the governor’s proposed replacements.
“It’s time has passed. The shelf life should not be extended,” Quinn said. “We’re better than this.”
Murphy shot down a bill that would have extended Grow NJ until January while the administration and legislative leaders fashion a new set of incentives.
A task force Murphy appointed unearthed allegations that politically connected businesses and individuals may have unfairly benefited from the program. And the Attorney General’s Office is investigating Grow NJ and several participants. Federal law enforcement officials are also looking into New Jersey’s tax breaks, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
At the September EDA board meeting, Quinn said an agency analyses found that at 25 projects lured to Camden County with corporate tax breaks, only 26 percent of the 1,098 construction jobs went to county residents and only 2 percent to city residents.
The scope of the data provided to the EDA is limited, Quinn cautioned. The study relies on reports that construction contractors working on EDA projects must submit – known as certified payroll reports – that include the zip codes of those on the payroll for the construction projects. The data was derived from payroll reports at the midpoint of the 25 construction projects, Quinn said.
Camden County spokesperson Daniel Keashen dismissed the EDA’s report, saying that the agency left out an unknown number of union construction workers, and offered a limited and inaccurate assessment of who has been employed in Camden because of the tax break program.
“We have about 194 residents that have participated in construction projects across the city” out of the 1,098 jobs, Keashen said.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story indicated the 2013 legislation that created the Grow NJ program required the employment of local residents, women and minorities; it does not.