Pintor Marin: ‘N.J.’s open for business, we’re here, we’re strong, we’re resilient and we can get past this’

Assembly budget chair said getting state back in the game — with incentives that are inclusive — is big win for N.J.

Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin, one of the main sponsors of the Economic Recovery Act of 2020 that passed in both houses of the Legislature on Monday and soon will be signed by Gov. Phil Murphy, loves that the program of incentives addresses so many top issues of today.

“This piece of legislation will serve the needs we have now,” Pintor Marin (D-Newark) said. “You’re talking about help for Main Street, help for companies that want to open up a supermarket in food deserts. You’re talking about Evergreen, where you want to help small business and minority-owned businesses. You’re talking about help for brownfields.”

Then there’s this: The legislation addresses the biggest problem of 2020 — that the state didn’t have any incentives to offer at all.

“I’m just happy we’re going to start the new year off with a piece of legislation that will say, ‘New Jersey’s open for business, we’re here, we’re strong, we’re resilient and we can get past this,’” she said.

“It took a lot of input, a lot of work the last couple of months — and, especially, the last couple of weeks — trying to make sure that we were being inclusive, making sure that we have strong provisions in there for oversight, but yet make sure that companies know that we’re here and that we appreciate them.”

In a nutshell, the package breaks down like this:

Each of the more than half-dozen programs will have caps — which, totaled together, will be $1.5 billion for each of the next six years. The successor to Grow New Jersey will be called EMERGE. And the successor to the Economic Redevelopment & Growth program, always called the ERG, will be called ASPIRE. Most of the money ($1.1 billion) will be allocated to them.

New programs (Evergreen, Brownfields, Historic and Community Anchor Development programs) will get $400 million.

It’s a lot of money (potentially $11.5 billion over six years) and a lot of pages (the bill is more than 200 pages).

Pintor Marin said she understands the concerns critics have about both — but is not concerned herself.

“This is a landmark piece of legislation,” she said.  “I think it’s very inclusive and that’s what makes it such a large piece of legislation. I think people are a little bit leery of it, because it’s 200-plus pages. But it’s really just to make it all-inclusive. I’m very proud of that.”

And Pintor Marin said the bill comes with the flexibility that’s needed for an economic future no one can predict.

“This piece of legislation makes sure that we can just compete and can compete at different levels,” she said. “Now, what that workforce is going to look like post 2020 — whether you’re going to have less people actually coming into the office, whether you need less office space — is uncertain. These are all details that we’re probably going to have to come back and fix.

“This was just to make sure that we give businesses that maybe weren’t even taking a look at the state a chance to say, ‘Let’s take a look at this, let’s see if our figures work out, let’s see if we can make the numbers work,’” she said. “We don’t know what it’s actually going to look like, but I think at least it puts us on a better playing ground when you’re really looking at other states and what they have to offer.”

And, while the programs may be open-ended, the benefits are not, Pintor Marin said.

“The net benefit thresholds are so much higher than they were in the past, when the programs really were unlimited,” she said. “Now, you really have to show a net benefit for these programs. The state’s not just giving that money away. It is money that doesn’t exist, and you have to show a net benefit to the state in order to receive your incentive.”

As for the $11.5 billion in total? Don’t necessarily count on the state reaching that total, Pintor Marin said.

“We know that we may not even use all of it, especially in Year One and Year Two,” she said. “We know that there are regulations that need to get done, we know that there’s plans that need to be submitted, we know that there’s an application process.

“What we’ve learned in the past with incentive programs is that you might not have any money going out in the first year or two, it’s really the latter years where it kicks in. But, if we’re going to really kickstart the economy, then you need to do something.”

But, to be clear, this something wasn’t something that was rushed, she said.

“This is something that we’ve been dealing with for two years,” she said. “There have been so many drafts, so many iterations of this, so much back and forth and I think, collectively, everyone understood every governor was going to want to have their mark. It got to the point where everyone really was at the table and said, ‘OK, if we put a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, maybe this can work out.

“I don’t think that’s there’s anything in this bill that should shock anybody, because it has all been played out in different drafts of different bills.”

A rush? It didn’t seem that way to her.

“I’m not sure why anyone would say it’s a rush,” she said. “It’s a rush in that we wanted to get it done before the (new) year and start fresh. And I think that’s actually refreshing.”