TRENTON — Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver on Wednesday announced the Legislature’s focus in the coming weeks will turn to a landmark “Back to Work NJ” bill package designed to create jobs and jumpstart economic development throughout the state.
The legislative leaders said they expect the bills to be the focus of legislative activity through December and into early January.
Sweeney and Oliver said that little attention has been paid to the issue of jobs and the economy, even as the unemployment rate has remained above 9 percent.
“Putting New Jersey back to work is essential if we are to be successful in tackling the state’s other problems,” said Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Cumberland/Salem). “People won’t be able to pay their property taxes if they don’t have a job. Small businesses won’t be able to succeed if people don’t have money to spend in their stores. All of the broader challenges facing New Jersey circle back to the need to create jobs.”
“One thing we can all agree on is the need to create new jobs, reinvigorate our economy and put New Jerseyans back to work,” said Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic). “All the property tax reforms in the world won’t mean a thing if people cannot afford to keep their home. That’s why we’ve put together a creative jobs program that will help lift New Jersey out of this recession and make it more affordable for working class residents struggling to make ends meet.”
Assembly Republican Leader Alex DeCroce (R-Morris and Passaic) criticized the announcement and said that lawmakers should take up Gov. Chris Christie’s “toolkit” measures for reducing property taxes.
“New Jersey residents and businesses have been suffering from the effects of the Great Recession since December, 2007. It is astounding that it has taken three years for the Democrats to realize that jobs and the economy are important,” DeCroce said.
“Today’s proposal is more rhetoric that we’ve heard over and over. The repackaged job creation initiative outlined today is another attempt to divert attention away from the fact that the Democrat majority has done virtually nothing on advancing key property tax reform legislation.”
For two months, the Democrats have regularly convened roundtable meetings of business leaders to hear ideas for jumpstarting the state’s economy, improving its business image and creating jobs. The plan involves putting ideas garnered from that group into action.
The plan is being finalized but highlights will include:
· Legislation to be introduced soon based on the successful Georgia Works program. The Georgia Works program allows unemployed job seekers who have registered for employment services to receive workplace training from a potential employer for up to 24 hours per week for up to six weeks. In Georgia, more than 11,000 employers have participated and about 63 percent of participants have found jobs.
· Corporate business tax reform legislation (A-1676/S-1646) sponsored by Sweeney, Assembly members Lou Greenwald (D-Camden), Matthew W. Milam (D-Atlantic/Cape May/Cumberland), L. Grace Spencer (D-Essex) and Gary R. Chiusano (R-Sussex) and Sen. Steve Oroho (R-Sussex) and Joseph M. Kyrillos Jr. (R-Monmouth) to modernize the formula used to determine the portion of business income subject to tax by the state from a three-factor formula to a single sales factor formula. The change has been a priority for New Jersey businesses.
· Small business tax reform legislation (S-1540/A-3535) sponsored by Senate Majority Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex), Oroho (R-Sussex), Greenwald and Assemblyman Peter J. Barnes III (D-Middlesex) to modernize the small business tax code to provide a meaningful tax break to entrepreneurs.
· Legislation (A-3389/S-2370) sponsored by Kyrillos, Sen. Fred Madden (D-Gloucester/Camden), Oliver and Assemblymen Albert Coutinho (D-Essex), Anthony M. Bucco (R-Morris) and Jon M. Bramnick (R-Union) that would expand the state’s Business Relocation and Retention Assistance Grant program to allow more companies to benefit and keep jobs in-state.
· Legislation (A-3353) sponsored by Coutinho and Assembly members Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Mercer), Angel Fuentes (D-Camden/Gloucester), and Pamela R. Lampitt (D-Camden) that would create the New Jersey Closing Fund to stimulate economic activity by encouraging and promoting the retention and expansion of existing business and industry and creating and attracting new business and industry to the state.
· Legislation (S-2454) sponsored by Madden that would provide targeted tax credits for investments in new, emerging biotech businesses. An Assembly version will soon be introduced.
· Legislation (A-3398/S-2345) sponsored by Assembly members Celeste Riley, John Burzichelli (both D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem) and Gary Schaer (D-Passaic/Bergen/Essex) and Sweeney that would give seniors whose total earnings fall under $100,000 a state income tax exemption on any income from a pension or deferred compensation plan. Such a change would put New Jersey on par with Pennsylvania, which is one of only two other states (Illinois and Mississippi) to have a similar retirement income tax-exemption.
Numerous other initiatives also will be considered, they said.
“These initiatives are a great step toward retooling New Jersey as an economic force primed to lead the pack in the economic recovery,” Oliver said. “We’re going to create jobs for residents, ease outdated burdens on businesses and spark economic growth throughout the state by encouraging investment. It’s a plan that benefits everyone.”
“With everything going on in New Jersey, it all points back to the old mantra, ‘It’s the economy’,” said Sweeney. “Unless we can get New Jerseyans back to work and attract the new businesses that will be the backbone of our economy for years to come, we won’t ever be able to surmount the challenges we face today.”
The legislative leaders said the business roundtable discussions will continue as the Legislature turns its attention to the pro-jobs agenda so that participants can offer more ideas and track progress of pending bills.
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