Murphy pushes smaller, wider brownfields tax incentives plan

Gov. Phil Murphy’s carefully-orchestrated budget-promoting events are serving as a good showcase for his toastmaster skills.

Monday, the governor was in South Amboy at the Y to make a pitch along with Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin for his brownfields Redevelopment Tax Credit program, $20 million in all, capped at $4 million per site.

“Instead of benefiting mostly larger sites, this new competitive grant will provide grater flexibility for communities where smaller brownfields are no less in need of attention and no less capable of delivering back real benefits for their residents and taxpayers,” said Murphy.

The governor chose the Y in South Amboy for the event because it sits on a former brownfield site. Today, the Y is at the center of a new community, surrounded by parks and the Raritan Bay, spurring development all around it.

“The prior buildings on this site were part of New Jersey’s industrial past,” he added. “Auto parts, pottery and chemicals among other items were manufactured here. Those industries are now gone, but for years their legacies remained in the form of pollution in the ground and water.”

It was Coughlin’s old stomping grounds.

“The place where we’re at right now, I remember it being, as many of you do, abandoned old factories, weeds and dump sites that were not done in the usual way; they were just where you put crap, on the path to Frog Hollow as I was a little boy,” he reminisced.

Today, it’s a model of urban renewal and, the governor says, a good example of what can happen when the state right-sizes its program to spread the wealth of incentives. But is the $20 million total enough?

“We need incentives — look at this building as an example of that. But I think uncapped incentives and unmonitored incentives, which I fear that we’ve had in the past, are not what we need,” said Murphy. “I’m not necessarily married to that specific number, but I think the notion of a cap and capping per project so that you ensure that you don’t just hit home runs, you hit lots of singles and doubles.”

Of course this proposal, like his plan for funding NJ Transit and expanding Pre-K, are subject to legislative approval. This being early March, that’s certainly not a given.

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