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Senate approves bill overhauling N.J. corporate incentives program

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    Raymond Lesniak, left, and Albert Coutinho sponsored the legislation.
    Raymond Lesniak, left, and Albert Coutinho sponsored the legislation.

    After months of delays, the Economic Development Act of 2013 is set to receive final legislative approval today.

    The state Senate approved the bill early this afternoon by a vote of 26-10. The Assembly, which already approved the bill last month, is also scheduled to vote on the measure today, in order to concur with amendments made since its initial passage.

    The Assembly session was set to begin at 11 a.m., but had not yet started as of early afternoon.

    The bill, introduced in the Assembly by Assemblyman Al Coutinho (D-Newark) was the subject of down-to-the-wire negotiations. The final version garnered concerns from some, including the Sierra Club of New Jersey, which worried it will shift development to environmentally sensitive areas.

    On the Senate floor today, Sen. Bob Smith (D-Piscataway) said he agrees with the premise of the bill, but not the final version.

    "It's a shame it was amended at the end to make it a really ugly bill," he said. He voted against the bill.

    Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-Red Bank) also voiced concern over a prevailing wage requirement included in the bill.

    But Sen. Joseph Kyrillos (R-Middletown), said the bill would address an urgent need to make the state more economically competitive.

    "We ought to look at the big and the larger picture, the thrust of what this bill is all about," he said. "We have far far too many people in New Jersey still out of a job."

    Kyrillos co-sponsored the Senate version of the legislation, along with Raymond Lesniak (D-Union).

    Gov. Chris Christie has already said publicly he will sign the bill.

    The legislation would consolidate the state's business incentive portfolio from five programs down to two. Business groups say the streamlined program will boost the state's competitiveness, and help the state keep jobs here or lure them from neighboring states.

    Reporter Jared Kaltwasser is providing more updates to this story on Twitter @JaredKaltwasser.

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    Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@njbiz.com

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