In the PR game, Friday afternoon is where bad stories are sent to quietly die.
So it was a little curious that Gov. Christie waited until Friday afternoon last week to announce he’d signed the Grow NJ bill, an artfully crafted bit of legislation that expands one of the state’s major corporate tax subsidy programs he so often cites as one the most important job creation tools at the state’s disposal.
That may be an indication that this legislation simply goes too far.
The bill represents yet another major revision of a transit oriented development plan (the Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit) originally created by the Corzine administration to entice businesses to move into office space in urban centers where workers could use public transportation.
Two years of exceptions and expansions by the Legislature have created a $1.5 billion funding pool — tax subsidies in the form of rebates of sales tax, income tax, property tax or more than a dozen other taxes — to help build sparkling new offices or other facilities for corporations that promise to create or “retain” jobs.
The latest expansions, under the guise of Grow NJ, will:
- expand the definition of transit zone, to a full-mile radius of a transit center, from half-mile.
- provide subsidies to develop vacant land around Newark Liberty International Airport.
- allow the transfer of state owned property to the New Jersey Performing Arts Center for sale to the Prudential insurance company as a site for its new headquarters.
It’s unclear if the NJPAC transfer is proper, but it’s plainly obvious that the project isn’t transit oriented development since the building will not be easily accessible from Penn Station and the company’s plans include a 1,600 space parking garage.
The expansion of the Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit will do little to increase employment in New Jersey, although it will provide sweet deals for corporations.
Few states in recent years have gone as far as New Jersey in offering tax subsidies to corporations in an attempt to spur job creation. The state has awarded more than $1.2 billion in tax subsidies through four major programs with the promise of tens of thousands of new jobs.
That hasn’t happened. The creation of private sector jobs has not been robust enough to offset the losses of teachers, cops, librarians, firefighters, garbage collectors and other public employees. In fact, while the nation as a whole has seen the unemployment rate fall to 8.5 percent, the rate in New Jersey remains stubbornly at 9.1 percent.
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