Amid strong criticism, Gov. Jon Corzine Monday signed what he and Democratic legislative leaders describe as economic recovery legislation that will reinvigorate the Garden State economy through a series of economic development measures.
"Without a doubt, the current global economic crisis has presented us with of one our greatest challenges, but it is also one of our greatest opportunities," Corzine said as he signed the legislation in Newark. "Last October, we introduced a far reaching and multi-faceted economic recovery and assistance plan. Today we are building upon those initiatives with this additional recovery legislation that will help our economy and citizens grow stronger and more prosperous."
The bill, S-2299/A-4048, establishes an Economic Redevelopment and Growth grant program; revises the Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit Act and the Technology Business Tax Certificate Transfer Program; places a moratorium on the COAH "Statewide Non-Residential Fee Act" and authorizes grants to cities and towns for affordable housing and improves the financing of higher education facilities in New Jersey.Corzine's action was criticized by New Jersey Policy Perspective, a Trenton-based liberal think tank, and the Sierra Club of New Jersey.
Naomi Mueller Bressler, Policy Perspective policy analyst, said the bill signing comes less than a week after 44 people were arrested in a corruption sting, many of them public officials.
"The arrests uncovered an unprecedented level of corruption throughout the state and made the need for transparency and accountability in all government transactions even more obvious. Unfortunately, the bill the governor signed this afternoon expands programs that some say will encourage development with no improvement in transparency or accountability and no real understanding of whether any of these economic development programs work.''
Jeff Tittel, Sierra Club director, added to the criticism. "Governor Corzine today signed into law the so-called New Jersey Economic Stimulus Act just days after the federal government made sprawling arrests in a statewide corruption probe. This bill will give away billions of dollars in public subsidies without proper oversight to the same areas where dozens of local officials have been arrested for corruption.''
Bressler added that the new law "could cost the state, its municipalities, counties and schools millions of dollars as money is diverted to developers and away from essential public services. When this law is in effect, developers will be entitled to receive reimbursement for their costs from up to 22 state and local taxes and fees. No other state allows so many revenues to be diverted to developers.''