Bill Intended to Cut Down on Influence of Pay-to-Play in Municipal Development Deals
TRENTON – At a news conference with representatives from the Center for Civic Responsibility at the Statehouse today, Senator Ellen Karcher unveiled proposed legislation to reform the State’s redevelopment laws, ensuring that redevelopment deals be governed by strict ethical guidelines.
“For too long, redevelopment in New Jersey has been a code word for corrupt developers seeking to enrich themselves on the public dole,” said Senator Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer. “Many seek to trade campaign contributions for lucrative development contracts, through the pay-to-play practice that raises the cost on taxpayers. We need to put an end to this insidious practice that is literally making New Jersey too expensive for many to make their homes here.”
The measure would make a number of significant changes to the redevelopment process for all projects on the State, county and local levels. It would ban contributions by redevelopers from the onset of a redevelopment project to the completion of the project, and would also ban contributions from the redevelopers’ consultants, such as lawyers and engineers. The proposal would tighten the criteria a municipality has to prove to show an “area in need of redevelopment,” the traditional trigger for eminent domain powers to be used, and would increase public accountability and transparency for redevelopment projects.
“This is the sort of top-to-bottom reform we need to turn the page on New Jersey’s tarnished ethical past,” said Senator Karcher. “Developers have been able to get sweetheart deals while New Jersey’s residents have had to live with the symptoms of their corruption, including overdevelopment, suburban sprawl and higher property taxes. We need to take drastic steps to ensure that redevelopment projects in New Jersey are conducted under the highest ethical standards, and to assure residents that development deals fit the needs of the community, and are not solely to line the pockets of campaign contributors.”
The bill is currently pending introduction, and will likely be considered by the Senate Economic Growth Committee.