The heads of two of the largest statewide chambers of commerce came out in support of Gov. Phil Murphy’s proposed “Innovation Evergreen Fund”—an ambitious economic incentive that would be part of what replaces the state’s outgoing corporate tax break program.
Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey President and Chief Executive Officer Carlos Medina, African American Chamber of Commerce President and CEO John Harmon and AACC Board Chair Hosea Johnson, were among 21 other local and business officials highlighted in a statement from the governor’s office showing support for the initiative.
Lawmakers and the administration are sparring over what the next set of tax incentives will be following the July 1 end of the Grow New Jersey tax breaks and Economic Redevelopment and Growth gap financing programs.
Murphy wants to replace both programs with a new set of incentives, capped at $400 million a year. That includes the $500 million evergreen fund, capped at $60 million a year for five years, with a 100 percent match by private capital investors.
The state and participating venture capital firms would split investments 50/50 to fund life sciences, financial technology, digital media and cybersecurity startups looking to set up shop in the state.
“Supporting businesses that offer employment opportunities in high-growth sectors and drive investment in communities where it’s most needed will lead to improved quality of life for New Jersey families,” Harmon said in a statement from the governor’s office.
Other supporters in the Tuesday statement included technology trade group New Jersey Tech Council President and Chief Executive James Barood, pharmaceutical trade group BioNJ President Debbie Hart and venture capital firm Tech Council Ventures‘ managing partners Stephen Socolof and Jim Gunton.
“The New Jersey startup tech community is replete with talented entrepreneurs and innovators. Gov. Murphy’s Innovation Evergreen Fund is exactly the catalyst needed to compete with the nation’s other hotbeds,” Gunton said.
“We are hopeful that programs such as the Innovation Evergreen Fund will make their way to reality, along with a broad array of other incentives, so that our biopharmaceutical companies and future companies can look to New Jersey as a place in which to grow and prosper,” added Hart.
Top lawmakers, such as Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District, a chief political opponent of Murphy, have cast skepticism on a cap for programs.
“The problem with capping incentives is then you’ve tied your hands. Phil Murphy supported Amazon, he supported that, it’s $5 billion. I can’t pursue it if I capped it,” Sweeney told NJBIZ Tuesday. The governor’s office could not immediately be reached for a response on that.
Another proposal, NJ Forward, would replace Grow NJ and be capped at $200 million annually. NJ Aspire, which would replace the Economic Redevelopment and Growth cap financing program, would be capped at $100 million annually.
An expanded Brownfields Redevelopment program, aimed at financing redevelopment of contaminated urban sites, and a historic preservation tax credit program, would each be capped at $20 million a year.