Five of New Jersey’s poorest cities could be getting a two-year extension of a program meant to stimulate economic activity. The Assembly passed legislation yesterday preventing Urban Enterprise Zones in Newark, Camden, Trenton, Plainfield, and Bridgeton from expiring at the end of this year. Now it goes to the Senate.
In designated UEZs, customers pay only 3.5 percent sales tax instead of 7 percent at stores, and there are also tax and other incentives for business owners. There are now 32 zones in the state.
Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer), whose district includes Trenton, said the legislation is designed to keep things as they are in the five affected cities while a commission decides if UEZs are effective as an economic stimulus. Gov. Chris Christie, who called the zones, first approved in 1983, a “failed 30-year experiment,” vetoed a bill in September that would have extended UEZs for 10 years.
Gusciora called the Trenton zone “an economic engine” and said about 100 businesses benefit from it.
Mayor Chris Bollwage of Elizabeth, the longtime head of the UEZ Mayors Commission, said Christie’s willingness to support the two-year extension is the big question. He pointed out that only a small group of New Jersey’s 565 municipalities have UEZs.
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