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Dividing New Jersey: Budget woes stir new controversy around big-ticket tax breaks

Wednesday, July 2, 2014   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Greg Mayers
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NJSpotlight.com 5/30/2014

The debate over corporate incentive programs is nothing new. But it's been reignited in recent weeks, as New Jersey officials grapple with an $800 million budget shortfall — one that's taken center stage alongside a 10-year, $82 million tax credit offered to the Philadelphia 76ers for a new practice facility and team headquarters in Camden. The latest outcry is somewhat attributable to the nature of the 76ers project, he said.

It's a debate that rages anytime a large or high-profile project comes before the state Economic Development Authority. Like last November, when the agency awarded a $390 million tax grant to the American Dream Meadowlands project — the largest in the history of the Economic Redevelopment and Growth program. State and city officials including Gov. Chris Christie immediately applauded the project, saying it was a win for Camden and proof that the incentives overhaul was working. Meantime, the chorus of dissidents quickly formed on the other side — from liberal think tank New Jersey Policy Perspective, to Americans for Prosperity, a conservative nonprofit political advocacy group.

 

The controversy has caused at least one lawmaker to have second thoughts about supporting the Economic Opportunity Act. At a June 12 press conference, Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck) said that in the backdrop of New Jersey's budget crisis and slow economic recovery, she's developing a “growing concern” about incentive programs and wondering why the state is “not seeing any payoff on this investment.” Weinberg last year voted to concur with Christie's recommendations on the incentives bill and send it back to his desk for final approval.


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