Trenton tax incentive program dropped by Christie reignited by Gusciora bill

TRENTON >> Last year, Gov. Chris Christie rejected legislation to extend a tax incentive program that helps businesses in Trenton and other urban cities.

With a new Democratic governor in town, Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon) sponsored a bill that made its way through the legislature that would resurrect these Urban Enterprize Zones (UEZ) in Trenton, Bridgeton, Camden, Newark and Plainfield for a 10-year period.

“It has been a benefit to the city,” Gusciora said of the bill that was passed by the Assembly on Thursday and now heads to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk. “We have 180 businesses in our UEZ zone. This has been real economic incentive for businesses to remain in the city.”

Under the UEZ program, the sales tax is cut in half at businesses inside the zones.

Gusciora, who is running for Trenton mayor, said when it was active, the program was a big help to businesses like Griffith Electric in the capital city.

“Griffith Electric does $25 million in sales each year and you go in the parking lot and you see contractors coming from Pennsylvania or outside of Mercer County,” the longtime 15th district legislator said. “They come here because they get the break in the sales tax. The contractors come here because a lot of it’s the profit margin of paying less in sales tax than they would anywhere else.”

The program has been inactive in the five cities since the start of 2017.

Last year, Christie called the program a “failed 30-year experiment” and Republicans argued Thursday that nothing had changed in the urban areas where UEZ was once active, so it didn’t work.

The new bill will require a report on the program’s effectiveness.

Gusciora believes Gov. Murphy will sign the legislation to reactivate the program in the five cities.

“Gov. Murphy said he is already supportive of UEZs,” the assemblyman said.

The assemblyman, who lives in Trenton, feels the legislation can also be refined.

“It they wanted to improve on it, they would reinvest the sales tax that is garnered from the UEZ sales and reinvest it into the city and create incubators or other business opportunities for young entrepreneurs in the city,” Gusciora said. “We have the stable businesses that have stayed here because of the UEZ opportunity. But there really needs to be a reinvestment with that UEZ money into the urban areas.”

Gusciora said Trenton should be a recipient of the extra funding due to the many state office buildings located in the city.

“Over 50 percent of the property in Trenton is tax exempt,” he said. “We’re not getting any tax revenue from the state buildings. The state should be providing pilot monies or other kind of revenue into the city.”

Reed Gusciora