Murphy Names Four New Members for Economic Development Agency

Michael Aron, NJTV News | December 18, 2019 | Budget
Battle continues between governor and fellow Democrats in Legislature over future of tax incentive programs

Gov. Phil Murphy, still at an impasse with leaders of the state Legislature over the future of state business incentives, announced Tuesday that he plans to appoint four new members, all women, to the board of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.

Murphy said they’ll help him rewrite the tax incentive rules, which have been in limbo since expiring in June without any replacement after the governor impaneled a task force that found the earlier system had been manipulated to benefit insiders, including South Jersey powerbroker George Norcross and associates.

“They know, as I and my economic team do, that our future can’t rest on delivering huge payouts to the best connected among us while failing to deliver real results to so many in our communities,” he said. “That way was tried and that way failed. We have little to show for it. We ignore its lessons at our peril. It’s time for a new way and for fresh perspectives.”

The four new appointees will replace holdovers from the Christie era still on the 15-member EDA board. They are:

  • Aisha Glover, head of the Newark Alliance, a nonprofit that has worked to foster economic revitalization in New Jersey’s largest city;
  • Virginia “Ginny” Bauer, a former state commerce secretary and commissioner on the Port Authority board who’s now the CEO of a security technology firm called GTBM Inc.;
  • Rosemari Hicks, the owner of CoWork Street, a Camden firm that offers shared workspaces for small businesses;
  • Marcia Marley, founder of the liberal group Blue Wave NJ and a board member of New Jersey Policy Perspective, a left-leaning think tank that has also been critical of the old EDA incentive programs. She also holds a PhD in economics from UC Berkeley.

Tangling with Norcross allies

Murphy has been jockeying with Norcross’s allies in the Legislature over the criticism of the EDA and the future of its programs.

After Murphy’s task force was created, Norcross’s friend Senate President Steve Sweeney impaneled a special Senate committee that offered a different picture of EDA operations, and last month featured testimony by Norcross.

Murphy, Sweeney, and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin — all Democrats — have been negotiating to come up with a new program but seem to be stuck.

“I want to get into a room, lock the door, figure it out and not leave until we do,” Murphy said.

Murphy has a vision of New Jersey as a home for innovative companies — startups, tech firms and the like. But the business community says that, without tax incentives, it’s hard to attract new businesses.

The biggest issue between Murphy and the Legislature is whether to cap tax incentive awards or not.

“We feel pretty strongly that we need some sort of cap so we can tell the taxpayers we are the stewards of your money. We know at most this program will cost x or y,” Murphy said during the event in which he introduced his four appointees.

“If we had other states who were our competitors, and they were upcapped, that would be a concern,” he said. “They’re all capped. Some of them are ridiculously low caps.”