Grow NJ Incentive Program to Expand for Businesses

March 6, 2013
Gov. Chris Christie announced that a new business incentive bill will be heard in the Senate next week to help the state's economy. Critics say the programs cost more taxpayer money than they generate.

By Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron
NJ Today

Lockheed Martin in Moorestown just won a $100 million Navy contract to continue work on the Aegis combat radar system, thanks to a $40 million equipment grant from the state of New Jersey.

Pfizer just announced it’s moving its animal-health spinoff Zoetis from Madison to nearby Florham Park, thanks to a $14 million state grant.

Both grants are part of an expanded business incentive program called Grow NJ.

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At a speech today to commercial real estate leaders, the governor talked about expanding that program even more.

“This coming Monday, a new business incentive bill will be heard in the Senate by Sen. Lesniak’s committee. He has been working hard with the administration and Assemblyman Albert Battino to come up with a new Grow NJ incentive plan that will be bigger and broader than the current Grow NJ plan,” Christie said.

There are critics — usually liberals — who say tax incentive programs like Grow NJ cost more taxpayer money that they generate. But leaders of both parties in Trenton seem to have decided that in a time when every other state is doing it, New Jersey has to offer tax incentives to business as well.

“These are the things we have to do today because we’re dealing in an economy globally and state to state where it’s hand-to-hand combat,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney.

“Lockheed Martin would have not been in as strong a position to win that Aegis contracts without the tax incentives,” said Assemblyman Lou Greenwald.

“All the states are in an intense scramble to rebuild their economies, retain jobs, attract jobs,” said Rutgers economist Joseph Seneca.

Seneca says in an ideal world there would be no incentives.

“It’s a prisoner’s dilemma issue. It would be better off if no one did it in terms of the individual states, but no single state can step forward and not do it,” he said.

Seneca says the state Economic Development Authority does a god job administering the grants. Commercial real estate advocate Michael McGuinness agrees.

“We’re all aware of those abuses that happen out there, the potential for abuse that can happen if a company says they’re leaving but in reality they weren’t gonna leave, they’re just trying to get a better incentive. I think that’s why we have agencies like the EDA,” McGuinness said.

If Lockheed Martin hadn’t won the contract, it would be a sad night in Moorestown.