The state’s Economic Development Authority awarded incentives under a corporate tax break program that will expire July 1 – for a total of roughly $40 million – while also cutting down on the tax break award for a company the agency said did not deliver on the jobs it promised.
Nestle, which was initially awarded a $14.5 million tax break, had the amount reduced to $9.2 million because it only created 102 of the 177 jobs it promised to create, according to EDA board documents.
“As more information becomes available, we will explore all options available to us to pursue, recapture or repayment for any funds that are found to have been expended improperly,” Kevin Quinn, Gov. Phil Murphy’s recent pick to chair the EDA board, said at the Tuesday board meeting.
The $40 million of tax breaks spanned four companies – Case Medical Inc., CIT Bank NA, Infobip LLC and Zipdrug Inc. – all of which were approved unanimously by the board.
South Hackensack-based medical manufacturer Case Medical won a $9.7 million incentive to be paid out over 10 years to build a facility in Bloomfield rather than New York. Livingston-based CIT Bank won a $22 million tax break to be given over 10 years for investing in a Morristown office building rather than in White Plains, N.Y.
Telecommunications company Infobip won a $1.4 million tax break over seven years for building a facility in Jersey City rather than in Pennsylvania. Zipdrug won a $6.3 million incentive to be given over 10 years for also moving to Jersey City, rather than Purchase, N.Y.
Tuesday’s move came as statewide and local Camden activists, as well as local officials at the standing-room-only board meeting, made a last-ditch effort to provide their input on the program.
Many people at the meeting depicted the incentive program as one which gave hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate tax breaks to politically connected businesses while thousands of Camden residents were neglected and left in poverty.
“For many folks in this room, the people from the city who are meant to be benefiting from these tax incentives are present in the same space as those people in charge of giving them out,” said Sue Altman, head of New Jersey – Working Families, one of the activist groups most critical of the tax incentive program.
“And it’s a lesson to us all… that we never again can let a program worth over a billion dollars happen to people and not with people, and not include those folks,” Altman added.
Gov. Phil Murphy put together a task force in January which recently presented evidence suggesting that companies with strong ties to South Jersey political powerbroker George Norcross either crafted the program to benefit themselves, or provided false information about plans to leave the state so they could win more tax breaks.
The task force was scheduled to release its findings on Monday, but delayed the publication at the request of a judge after Norcross and several businesses being scrutinized by the task force filed legal challenges against the task force.
Lawmakers put together their own similarly-goaled Assembly and Senate committees, the latter of which is armed with subpoena power and is eyeing its first meeting on June 24.
Murphy wants to let Grow NJ expire when it lapses in July rather than extend it, and an Assembly committee will vote Thursday on a one-year extension of the program to give time for lawmakers and the governor to hash out the program’s replacement.
Other attendees of Tuesday’s meeting depicted Grow NJ as a program which breathed new economic life into a city which is now on the rise thanks to the incentives, reversing a trend of Camden as one of the nation’s poorest and most crime-ridden cities.
“The last four decades has been nothing but an exodus,” Camden Mayor Frank Moran told the board. “Along with that, went jobs and able residents, who left us to fend for ourselves.”
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article indicated that the incentives awarded on June 11 by the NJEDA would be the last awarded under the Grow New Jersey program. That is not the case, and the article has been updated accordingly. According to the governor’s office, the Grow New Jersey program will accept applications through June 30. Any applications received before that deadline will be reviewed, and passed along for a full board vote if appropriate.