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Senator Girgenti Calls On Governor Christie To Immediately Release Details On His Program To Replace Urban Enterprise Zones

Senator John Girgenti on the floor of the Senate

After the Senate failed to override the Governor�s line item veto of the Urban Enterprise Zone (UEZ) funding in the FY2012 budget, Senator John A. Girgenti has called upon Governor Christie to release details for his program to replace the UEZs. Senator Girgenti (D-35th) of Hawthorne stated that, �as a prime sponsor of the UEZ program for the City of Paterson, this disturbs me to a great extent�, when referring to the Governor�s decision to stop the reinvestment of funds collected from UEZs.

“Urban Enterprise Zones were created to encourage the revitalization of some of our most distressed urban areas. The premise behind the program is relatively simple. The sales tax in a UEZ is cut in half, to 3.5%. The revenue from these taxes then go back to the urban area and are placed into UEZ accounts. This money is then primarily intended to be reinvested back into the UEZ.”

The Legislature had offered the Governor a compromise. Of the estimated $94 million in tax revenue, 50% – $47 million – would go to the State General Fund, while the remaining $47 million would have been reinvested back into the UEZs.

Girgenti stated that “the Legislature attempted to meet the Governor half-way on this measure; however, he saw fit to divert all $94 million to the State General Fund. While the UEZs can retain the 3.5% sales tax, they will see no actual benefit from it in terms of reinvestment.

“The Governor has indicated that he will create a new program replacing the system, but so far has not offered any details or information on what he plans to do. It would have been prudent for his Administration to have had a plan already developed” before dismantling this essential program for our Cities, Senator Girgenti had stated on the floor of the Senate last Monday. Governor Christie has claimed that a program with stricter oversight and more accountability will take the place of the former Urban Enterprise Zones.

In calling for the immediate release of details of the program that the Governor has proposed, Girgenti said that “cities like Paterson in the 35th District relied on UEZ revenue to revitalize their economies and ease urban blight and distress. That is – or was – the goal of these Urban Enterprise Zones. While it would have been prudent for the Governor to have released details of a replacement program before he actually gutted UEZs, he must begin to address how he will fill that void before more time is lost. For many of these cities with enterprise zones, any effort of urban economic revitalization is time sensitive and requires consistency and coordination.

“I strongly urge the Governor to immediately release details of any replacement program – or lack thereof, if that is the case. If he has an alternative idea, it is time he shares it with the rest of us. For our cities’ sake, I hope he has a workable alternative to the former Urban Enterprise Zones and I hope we can begin to implement it in an efficient, conscientious, and dedicated manner. Because, as we have learned time and time again, it can take decades to build something, but only days to tear it down.”