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Senate scheduled to take up incentives overhaul this week

Ray Lesniak has said he’s confident the Legislature will get the Economic Opportunity Act on the governor’s desk soon. So far, it’s been plagued by numerous delays, to the chagrin of the business community.-(AARON HOUSTON)

Action on a bill that would revamp New Jersey’s corporate incentive programs is set to resume this week.
Unless it doesn’t.Such is the story for a celebrated piece of legislation that, while enjoying broad support from top lawmakers and business groups, has been sidetracked as often as Leopold Bloom as it searches for a route to the governor’s desk. Supporters are now hoping to see some progress on the Economic Opportunity Act before Labor Day.
The Senate is scheduled to have its next voting session Aug. 19, after plans for a July session fell through. While the upper house of the Legislature passed the measure June 27, as budget negotiations were under way, the Assembly included a host of additions in its version of the bill that the Senate must discuss and approve before the measure can go to Gov. Chris Christie.
Ray Lesniak (D-Union) is the major sponsor of the Senate version, while Al Coutinho (D-Newark) has been pushing the Assembly bill.
The Senate bill would accomplish the following:

  • Consolidate five incentive programs into two — the Grow New Jersey assistance program and Economic Redevelopment and Growth grant program. Grow New Jersey loses its tax credit cap, and both programs sunset in 2019.
  • Loosens geographic restrictions on tax credits and lowers eligibility requirements for job creation and capital investment.
  • Identifies four cities eligible for bonus incentives and creates “mega project” designation for certain industries and parts of the state.

The bill has been a matter of discussion since the fall of 2012, with more urgency as the year has gone by. But it has run into countless delays, despite its broad support and Christie’s promise to sign it. Promoters have said the elections of last fall — and primary season, in the spring and summer — and the changing makeup of the Economic Development Authority are culprits.
In July 2012, Christie announced Michele Brown, then his appointments counsel, would succeed Caren Franzini as the agency’s CEO.
Meanwhile, insiders have been quietly complaining that, with the Urban Transit Hub tax credit program depleted, New Jersey now has no major incentives tool to compete with other companies, leaving the Garden State defanged in regional battles with other states.
Today’s voting session is scheduled for 2 p.m.
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