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Incentives reform a sigh of relief for businesses

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It was apparent years ago that, without a sizable cash infusion or a completely revamped program, New Jersey's lucrative corporate incentives offerings were going to go dry.

That in and of itself didn't upset everyone. Plenty of detractors called the Urban Transit Hub tax credit, the most generous incentive program in memory, the kind of corporate welfare the state would be better off without. And the kinds of awards offered to companies such as Panasonic and Prudential ate up hundreds of millions of dollars, giving pause to even the staunchest advocates of such investments.

Predictably, though, we got nothing until well after the eleventh hour — and this was on a bill that was championed by two lawmakers who'd worked well together before, that had support from both parties and that Chris Christie said he'd sign as soon as the measure made it to his desk. Mostly, that was thanks to the typical give-and-take of the legislative process, which saw the bill practically double in size. Christie helped rein in some of that when he conditionally vetoed a version that the Assembly and, grudgingly, the Senate approved in late August, but though this isn't a perfect bill, it's a marked improvement for the business community.

The Economic Opportunity Act has consolidated the state's five main incentive programs into two — Grow New Jersey and Economic Redevelopment and Growth — with expanded eligibility that isn't limited by geography and a large focus on job creation. Most importantly, it returns a weapon to New Jersey's arsenal that had left potential additions to the corporate landscape on the sidelines, wondering if the Garden State would be able to compete with its neighbors.

If you took the pulse of a special NAIOP meeting held Tuesday to discuss the measure, you'd know that question has been answered. The development community is salivating over the opportunity to bring in new companies and help existing ones grow into new, modern spaces.

We haven't always been unwavering in our support of this measure. We faulted lawmakers for dragging their feet on the proceedings, for larding up the bill with unnecessary add-ons and for allowing petty squabbling to keep this from being a done deal; in fact, as of this writing, the bill has not yet been signed into law. But at the end of the day, businesses have to be excited about the bill that will be signed, and that their concerns were eventually taken quite seriously in Trenton. Our hats go off to the lawmakers who made that happen.

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Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@njbiz.com

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