Replacing the New Jersey Economic Development Authority’s Choose New Jersey tax incentive program with a system that distributes payments more evenly across all municipalities is on the top of the New Jersey Urban Mayor’s Association’s wish list.
That was just one of the items on the NJUMA’s list of 10 specific recommendations it has made to Governor-elect Phil Murphy. The NJUMA also wants to further beautify the state, redistribute school funds and increase the number of distressed communities that would receive tax incentives for new construction or renovating existing developments.
NJUMA, a state-wide advocacy association consisting of the mayors of 23 townships and cities, officially released its 10 recommendations to Murphy shortly after the conclusion of its annual summit last week in Atlantic City.
“We want to say to the new incoming governor that it’s extremely critical that urban communities are at the forefront of a lot of the initiatives that need to come out of Trenton,” said Wilda Diaz, Mayor of Perth Amboy and NJUMA’s outgoing president and chair. “As the urban communities go, that’s how the state will go.”
The NJUMA wants to see an extension of the state’s Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOTS) program for the cities and townships that comprise the 32 Urban Enterprise Zones. That program exempts developers from property taxes when creating new buildings or renovating existing ones in economically distressed communities. In 2015, Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a plan that would have extended the program for another decade.
“The UEZ program is critical to our small businesses and residents, as well as corporations that want to move to our communities,” said Diaz. “They are a draw to our communities, and chances are businesses that move into communities will hire local citizens.”
Another issue that Diaz said is critical is redeveloping brownfields, zones containing dilapidated buildings and facilities.
“Providing funding for brownfield remediation and redevelopment is extremely important,” she said. “There are a lot of urban communities that have a legacy of large industries that have left them and have left abandoned sites that need our remediation.”
The 10 recommendations are:
Camden Mayor-elect Frank Moran agreed with redistributing economic development incentives, saying the state should focus its resources of improving transportation and other infrastructure as more companies are move in.
“We had to do some bonding for certain infrastructure work to build our capacity, but it’s not enough, and we hope the governor understands that and works with us,” Moran said during one of the conference’s panel discussions.
While Diaz emphasized the NJUMA has a “good relationship with the EDA,” she acknowledged changing the EDA’s system of distributing tax incentives would be met with opposition. With New Jersey being one of the highest taxed states in the country, raising fees on tax-exempt properties and commuters would most likely be met with stiff opposition as well.