BUSINESS & ECONOMY

Sen. Lesniak Supports Bloustein Study on Tax Incentives, Casino Ballot Question

Lockheed Martin got them. And Goya Foods and Holtec and even the Philadelphia 76ers. They all got tax incentives to move to New Jersey or stay in New Jersey in the interest of creating jobs and boosting the economy. The Economic Development Authority‘s granted almost $5.5 billion in tax breaks since the program started. Critics have said they’re unnecessary giveaways. And even a key sponsor of the Economic Opportunity Act, State Sen. Ray Lesniak, proposed a moratorium on the program until the Christie administration analyzes whether it’s effective. Now he’s got a different plan. He spoke about it with NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams.

The Bloustein School at Rutgers and the EDA have an agreement where the school will investigate how the tax incentive program works. “An independent study is needed. These tax incentives are needed. I’m a proud sponsor of that. We’re at a competitive disadvantage in New Jersey from other states who also have advantages and have lower costs than we do. But we have to make sure that we’re not giving away too much to create not enough jobs. And that’s what the Bloustein study will take a look at,” Lesniak said.

Some of the supporters of Lesniak’s bill for a moratorium say the deal between the Bloustein School and the EDA doesn’t go far enough because it doesn’t require the EDA to produce its own report. But Lesniak said he would trust the Bloustein report over one from the EDA because the school is independent. “I would rather rely on what they have to say than an internal report from the Christie administration, what they say about their own programs. I’ll take Bloustein first,” he said.

The idea of casinos in North Jersey has come to the forefront with a racino proposed for the Meadowlands and another on the table in Jersey City. The Jersey City location is next to a golf course and Lesniak believes it’s a good spot.

“The millions of people who visit Manhattan who don’t come over to New Jersey, they’ll want to come here. A 95-story hotel casino overlooking the Manhattan skyline, it has the wow factor,” he said.

When asked if North Jersey can support two casinos, Lesniak said, “North Jersey will be bringing back all the money that’s going out of the state for the last five to 10 years as other states have put up casinos. Plus, this Jersey City site will attract people worldwide.”

Allowing gambling outside of Atlantic City requires voter approval. Some lawmakers are pushing for it to be on the November ballot, including Lesniak. “It has to be now or never because we’re falling farther and farther behind on other states in the region. Where there’s a will there’s a way. We certainly have the time. The leadership in the Legislature has to support it for it to happen,” he said.