A bill nine months in the making intended to streamline the state’s tax incentive structure to foster targeted development and economic growth was released by the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee.
A3680, known as the “Economic Opportunity Act,” will upgrade and update the tax incentive structure, according to the bill’s chief sponsor, Al Coutinho (D-28) of Newark.
Instead of having the five major tax incentive programs, BEIP, BRAG, Urban Transit Hub ERG, and GROW NJ, the bill would streamline the incentive programs down to the latter two, Coutinho said.
The lawmaker said the bill “simplifies and clarifies our system for businesses and developers to take advantage of.” The goal of the bill, he said, is to place more emphasis on job creation than mere capital investment. The bill also lowers the threshold for which projects could qualify, particularly in terms of job creation, which could open the door for more investment and more expansion of facilities, and it focuses more on transit-oriented development.
Some $450 million of the incentives will benefit urban and distressed cities, officials said.
The bill is needed as a way to keep the programs going, which were close to being depleted.
“We’re quickly coming to an end,” Coutinho said.
The New Jersey Builders Association supports the bill, saying the housing market is not recovering as fast as it needs to. However, A3680 and the federal $1.8 billion Community Development Block Grant will help provide a one-two punch on the road to recovery.
Anne Brady of Plan Smart New Jersey supports the bill, but requested that the committee also find a way to address infrastructure investments and have a sustainable method of funding.
But Elliot Ruga of the Highlands Coalition opposed the bill, saying opening up areas currently restricted from development could compromise the quality of drinking water, much of which comes from the Highlands area.
The bill was released with no opposition. As Assemblyman Anthony Bucco, (R-25), of Boonton, said, “today’s a good day.”
He said the environment will not be compromised.