Bill to extend UEZs in 5 N.J. cities clears Assembly panel

Legislation to extend Urban Enterprise Zones in five New Jersey cities — and require a report on the efficiency of the program — was advanced Thursday by an Assembly panel.

The bill (A-3549) is sponsored by Eliana Pintor Marin (D-Newark), Raj Mukherji (D-Jersey City) and Reed Gusciora (D-Trenton).

The bill would extend the designation in Bridgeton, Camden, Newark, Plainfield and Trenton — which expired Dec. 31, 2016 — for 10 years, starting 90 days after the date the bill becomes law.

The UEZ program offers business incentives, like tax credits to hire local workers, that encourages business growth and improves the local economy. There are about 6,800 New Jersey-based UEZ businesses in the program.

“The UEZ program has produced a tremendous amount of benefits for many towns and residents throughout our state, including Newark,” said Pintor Marin. “Given the results it has already provided and how many more towns could benefit from it, it deserves to be extended.”

“Urban Enterprise Zones have been an integral part of urban revitalization for many years now,” said Mukherji. “Extending their designation will help many cities remain economically competitive while spurring job growth and economic development.”

“Over the years, the Urban Enterprise Zone program has helped attract both new businesses and consumers alike and has helped revitalize cites struggling to reinvigorate once-thriving business districts,” said Gusciora. “It makes little economic sense to have halted this momentum. By extending this designation, we can help these towns continue their renaissance.”

Qualified businesses in the program will continue to be eligible for incentives and benefits, and, if certified, will be able to continue to collect sales tax at half the statewide rate.

Another bill (A-3551), which was released Monday, directs the New Jersey UEZ Authority to review and analyze the program and issue a report on the findings to Gov. Phil Murphy and the Legislature. It is sponsored by Pintor Marin, Mukherji and Gusciora. The authority is required to complete the report no later than the governor’s budget message for 2020.

Both bills were released by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.