Revised UEZ program bill released by Urban Affairs Committee

TRENTON – The Senate Urban Affairs Committee released bill S429, which amends the way sales tax revenue from Urban Enterprise Zones (UEZs) are divided, over a five-year period.

The Department of Community Affairs would evaluate economic growth plans submitted by the municipalities, as required by the bill, in order to continue participating in the program.  An online application process would also be set up.

Sen. Jeff Van Drew said the bill will show which UEZs work and which don’t. He said he wants to put a bill forward that Gov. Chris Christie will sign.

“I’m not doing this to politically look good at home.”

Under the legislation, 50 percent of the sales tax revenue from UEZs would go to the state General Fund and the other half of the sales tax revenue would be deposited into separate accounts maintained by the state Treasurer within the enterprise zone assistance fund.

In each of the next five years, the portion of sales tax revenue dedicated for municipal UEZ assistance funds for local projects would grow by 20 percent in each year.

In fiscal Year 2016, 100 percent of the sales tax revenues received by the assistance fund will be for projects approved by the department.

Supporters of the UEZ said the bill will help mom and pop businesses stay viable.

Sen. Ron Rice said the UEZ program in Newark hasn’t helped improve all the business districts in the state’s largest city, leaving mostly the downtown district as the largest benefactor.

He called for amendments to make sure the money is distributed more fairly.

However, Van Drew denied the request, preferring he share his suggestions with the sponsors.

“It’s got multiple steps to go,” Van Drew said.

Sen. Sam Thompson abstained from the bill. He said the bill should remain a transitional program, and not one that lasts “forever.” He added that previously, UEZs have not been effective in stimulating business in the distressed shopping districts it’s intended to enliven.

Revised UEZ program bill released by Urban Affairs Committee