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Sweeney introduces two bills aimed at tackling unemployment

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Sen. President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) at a press conference on Nov. 6, 2013.
Sen. President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) at a press conference on Nov. 6, 2013. - (Andrew George / NJBIZ)

Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) announced Thursday that he would be introducing two bills aimed at spurring job growth and will be looking to move on them immediately.

Sweeney indicated that the bills come as a response to the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development's report last month that New Jersey lost over 36,000 private- and public-sector jobs in December.

"We've still yet to see a plan from the administration on how to create jobs and grow the economy in New Jersey," Sweeney said. "As has been the case in the past, we are not going to sit around and wait for them to act. People in this state need jobs now, not when the administration decides to get around to it. I will be introducing this legislation today and will move to act on it immediately."

The first of the two bills, dubbed the "New Jobs for New Jersey" tax credit program, will offer incentives to employers looking to hire unemployed workers. The bill had been passed last session but received a veto from Christie.

Sweeney said the bill is "just plain common sense."

"Providing incentives to people to hire those who've been out of work the longest is a great and easy way to reduce unemployment in the state," Sweeney said. "The governor's veto of this bill last session was completely misguided. Given the state's economic condition, surely he must see the wisdom in signing this bill into law when it reaches him."

The other piece of legislation would offer people who have experienced long-term unemployment priority at state-administered training programs. A minimum of 50 percent of funding for unemployed worker training would be put aside for employment training programs at community colleges.

"What we are seeing is that people who have been out of work for long period of time simply stop looking for a job," Sweeney said. "These folks don't just disappear. Their families don't just find another way to make do. That's why we must take measures to provide opportunities, especially for the long term unemployed, to find work."

Sweeney's announcement received praise from state AFL-CIO president Charles Wowkanech.

"New Jersey needs jobs more than anything else, especially for the long-term unemployed who have exhausted their jobless benefits but not their will to work," Wowkanech said. "We are committed to working alongside the Senate President to get people back to work."

The Senate Labor Committee will hear both bills.

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Andrew George

Andrew George

Andrew George covers the Statehouse from NJBIZ's Trenton bureau. Born and raised in N.J., Andrew has also spent time as a reporter in D.C., Texas and Pa. His email is andrewg@njbiz.com and he is @AndrGeorge on Twitter.

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