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Looking like a good split for Economic Opportunity II

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State Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) may have opted to withdraw the Economic Opportunity Act II last week, but the bill's main sponsor hasn't given up on anything in the legislation.

Lesniak has said he's going to split up the bill, separating more bipartisan friendly items such as affordable housing incentives and requirement relaxations from a plan to expand tax credits to film and digital media productions, an idea the governor is reportedly having a hard time getting behind. Both parts, he has said, will be reintroduced separately during the early half of the next legislative session.

And that, as one insider puts it, is a good move on Lesniak's part. When the incentives package was first introduced and then released by a Senate panel in November, some in the administration felt the bill was “top-loaded,” the insider says. By separating it into two parts and giving each portion its due course, “cooler heads will prevail.”

“In retrospect, this is probably the better way to do it,” the source said.

Even Dems don’t understand the bridge to nowhere good 

The mess around the George Washington Bridge lane closing won't go away. And even Democrats — who are delighting in the political fallout — can't understand why.

This comes straight from a Democratic supporter, someone who has followed politics in the state for more than three decades, someone who has known many of the movers and shakers personally, someone who has helped some of them get elected: “Even though I'm a Democrat, I don't for a minute believe that Chris Christie knew about any lane closings,” he said. “Or if he did, somebody mentioned it in passing. It's so pedestrian; it sounds like something goofy that David Wildstein thought up. Where's the cause and effect of, 'Geez, We're going to (expletive) over Fort Lee by closing a few lanes.' I don't know what motivated it.”

The scandal has resulted in the resignation of Wildstein, a longtime Christie pal and Christie's top executive Port appointee. But, our insider insists, the governor's group messed that up, too.

“If we're going to sacrifice people for mistakes, why wouldn't the smarter thing have been just to have told the truth?” he asked. “If the truth is that Wildstein did it, why wouldn't he just say it and get all the gum off Chris Chirstie's shoe? Why is the departure of both of them still kind of equivocal? That's what makes people suspicious.”

And the Dems delirious.

Orphan drug advocates breathing easier ... for now

The federal budget compromise leaves intact a tax credit encouraging companies to develop drugs that treat rare diseases, defined as those afflicting fewer than 200,000 people. New Jersey has several companies specializing in this area.

Rare disease advocates this summer prepared an aggressive lobbying campaign to preserve the credit which, along with a slew of other business tax credits, was considered for elimination by the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees as part of broader tax reform aimed at lower rates and a simpler code.

But it appears that Congress, consumed with the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, doesn't have the appetite for sweeping tax reform.

A source tracking the issue reviewed the two-year budget compromise and saw no language threatening the orphan drug tax credit.

“That's probably a fight for another day,” said the source.

Grapevine reports on the behind-the-scenes buzz in the business community. Contact Editor Tom Bergeron at tomb@njbiz.com.

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