Economic Opportunity legislation before committee next week

TRENTON – The Legislature kicks off budget hearing season next week with three hearings between Assembly and Senate committees, but there also will be room for regular business.

The Assembly Budget Committee will deal on Thursday with what supporters have dubbed the “New Jersey Economic Opportunity Act of 2013.”

A3680, which moved quickly from introduction in January through amendments in the Commerce Committee a little over two weeks ago, would expand economic development incentive programs: The Grow N.J. Assistance Program and the Economic Redevelopment and Growth Grant program.

Grow N.J. would become the state’s primary business incentive effort, offering financial incentive packages that would keep businesses here or attract new ones from out of state.

The second program would concentrate on helping redevelopment projects close financing gaps, among other things.

Both initiatives, which would come under the N.J. Economic Development Authority, take on added importance as the state rebuilds from Superstorm Sandy, particularly as New Jersey works to have the Shore attractions and businesses up and running for tourist season.

Being phased out as a result of this bill are the Business Retention and Relocation Assistance Grant Program, the Business Employment Incentive Program, and the Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit Program.

The bill has strong bipartisan support that includes among its Assembly sponsors Democrats Albert Coutinho and Troy Singleton and Republicans Jon Bramnick and Anthony Bucco.

Among the amendments that have been made:

Eligibility for the programs will be expanded to more areas of the state.

The bill reduces the capital investment and employment eligibility requirements necessary to participate.

Under the redevelopment program, the maximum tax credits would be $600 million for the state’s portion of agreements,  $250 million of that would be reserved for so-called urban transit-hub, commuter rail sites; $200 million for residential projects in distressed towns; $100 million for residential, disaster recovery projects; and $50 million for any town in a designated redevelopment, growth incentive area.

And a term, “workforce housing,’’ would be changed to “moderate income housing,’’ for projects in which at least 10 percent of the housing constructed is reserved for such households.


Economic Opportunity legislation before committee next week