TRENTON – The Senate Democrats were unable to overturn a reduction in funding of the state’s Urban Enterprise Zone program, which state Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-1), of Dennis Township, said is “modeled after the entrepreneurial experience” that the private-partnership Republicans are fond of.
For areas with decaying infrastructure and high unemployment, Van Drew said, “government alone cannot make it happen…They incentivize it and (the market) makes it happen.”
“This helps main streets, this helps urban areas, this helps areas that have been forgotten about,” he said. “If Vineland fails, if Newark fails…If any of these towns don’t do well, all us don’t do well.”
He said the legislature can work on legislation that can improve efficiency and productivity of the special zones, but that they shouldn’t be eliminated altogether.
Cognizant of the fiscal restraints of the state, Van Drew said, “It is not the full expenditure in there,” rather approximately half of the past levels of finding.
State Sen. Gerry Cardinale (R-39), of Demarest, said it is a program he’s always supported, but one that was “never intended to be permanent.”
It was introduced to help get blighted areas back on their feet to “be able to join the rest of the state in economic success,” which he said is shown to be unsuccessful by the fact that no town has ever left the program.
“The governor’s veto did not eliminate the UEZ program,” he said. “It simply took $47 million of the funds that would have gone to these municipalities away from those municipalities…There’s still $177 million (in the program).”
“We have too many examples like this,” Cardinale said, “where folks get comfortable getting the extra help…It seems to mire them in their previous position.”
State Sen. Steve Oroho (R-24), of Franklin Township, said a “half rate on the state sales tax,” a 3.5 percent rate, is benefit enough. “If you believe that this program is a success,” he said, don’t limit it to urban areas. “Let’s make all of New Jersey an enterprise zone
State Sen. Brian Stack (D-33), of Union City, said in his town the UEZ funding pays for litter clean-up and a façade improvement program.
State Sen. Tony Bucco (R-25), of Boonton, minimized the cutback by listing the funds still available to several of the UEZs, like Vineland ($6.4 million), Wildwood ($1.5 million), and Millville ($5 million). “This $47 million that was taken out by the governor is not going to kill this program,” Bucco said. “I would be happy to work with you to tighten up the regulations on these UEZs to make it a better program.”
Van Drew said that list was second-generation funds that originated in each UEZ, an example of the sustainable entrepreneurial model of the program.
The override of the veto failed, 24-12, with state Sen. Diane Allen (R-7) continuing to not vote for any of the override measures. Procedurally, since the chamber is “under call,” Allen has been recorded as a ‘no’ vote for each item. Republican state Sens. Joe Pennacchio (R-24), Sean Kean (R-11), and Andy Ciesla (R-10) are absent from the session today.