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Incentives overhaul package is yet again pushed to Trenton's back burner

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If this were a sporting event, the moral of the story of the Economic Opportunity Act would be “that's why they play the game.”

The bill — a revamp and consolidation of the state's business and job-creation incentives — has been the subject of close speculation and endless negotiation for the past several months. Thursday appeared to be the day of reckoning for the bill, as the state Senate passed an amended version of the bill and sent it to the Assembly for concurrence.

Instead, the Assembly added its own amendments before passing the bill last night, meaning it will need another Senate vote before it goes to Gov. Chris Christie's desk.

Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) said he doesn't expect the latest delay to last too long.

"I expect that the Senate will give final approval on July 8," he said.

Christie already has said he'll sign the bill.

Still, the latest delay confirmed the fears of many in the business community, who had hoped to see the bill passed earlier in the spring before it got sidelined by budget negotiations.

Instead, the bill became the subject of numerous last-minute meetings and discussions, ultimately pushing it into the summer break.

David Brogan, first vice president of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, said while he had hoped for quicker passage, he understands why the bill is taking so long.

"It's a very difficult and highly technical bill, so something of this nature is not going to simply go through without any issues," he said.

Lesniak said he doesn't expect the latest delay to have much of a material impact on projects that would seek to take advantage of the incentives in the bill.

"These projects, for the most part, don't have a drop-dead date," he said. "Obviously if it goes on for too long, people will start looking elsewhere, but as long as there's light at the end of the tunnel, I don't expect that any delay of this nature will have any impact."

Brogan said he agrees with Lesniak, but added "we also have to consider the opportunity cost for any delay," saying as long as the program isn't in place, there's a potential for the state to lose out.

Brogan said he's hopeful the bill will cross the finish line during the week of July 8. He said doing so is in line with Senate President Stephen Sweeney's (D-West Deptford) stated goal of creating jobs.

"This is a great way to do that," he said. "If you're going to focus on jobs, then we should be getting this bill passed and signed."

Reporter Jared Kaltwasser is @JaredKaltwasser on Twitter.

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Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@njbiz.com

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