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Incentives bill treats the symptoms, not the disease

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The conclusion of the budget season may have lacked some of the drama, intrigue and mattress deliveries of past spending plan negotiations, but fortunately, Chris Christie brought some excitement to the proceedings with his veto pen.

Among the eight bills the governor struck down on June 28 were measures to further expand Medicaid eligibility, to expand funding for women's health and to establish standards for public service privatization contracts. Democrats worked up a storm over several of these, but the veto of the Corporate Disincentive Property Tax Relief Act didn't get much play, perhaps because of the inaction on the Economic Opportunity Act. In any case, though, we're pleased to see Christie put a stop to bill that, like your haircut in your high school yearbook photo, seemed like a good idea at the time.

The bill essentially came about when Roche announced in 2012 it would be vacating the 119-acre property in Nutley, which will create a sizable impact on the township and in neighboring Clifton — not only with a sizable ratable coming off the tax rolls, but because the company generally was seen as a good corporate neighbor that encouraged its 1,000 employees to be active in the surrounding communities.

The bill would have set aside $13.5 million for towns that lose a major corporate tenant, according to Christie's veto. While we're all for the idea of helping towns like Nutley to recover after the economic loss such a move creates — it had been estimated at $9 million by an assemblyman who sponsored the legislation — an even smarter move would be to do more to make New Jersey a difficult place to walk away from.

The state has taken steps to dam the tide of outmigration, but the battle is far from won. Roche's departure was a huge blow, and it was felt even more so with its high-level R&D team moving to New York, instead of staying in New Jersey. More recently, Hertz announced it would leave Park Ridge for Florida, and didn't even bother to seek incentives from New Jersey — meaning it didn't know what programs are out there, or it didn't care, both of which are trouble.

Sensible policy would be a better way to manage corporate departures. This one doesn't fit the bill.

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Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@njbiz.com

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