TRENTON - With Trenton's Urban Enterprise Zone designation set to expire next year, Assemblyman Reed Gusciora has proposed legislation to extend the program for another decade.
"I think it is important that, especially when we are trying to revitalize the city, that we can continue this," said Gusciora (D-Mercer).
The UEZ program was created in 1983 and offers participating businesses incentives aimed at encouraging growth and stimulating development.
Gusciora's bill would extend the UEZ designation in Trenton, as well as in Bridgeton, Camden, Newark, Plainfield, Millville and Vineland. Approximately 6,800 businesses participate in the program statewide.
The program allows qualifying businesses to collect only half of the state's sales and use tax, as a way to attract customers.
Gusciora's bill proposes that 10 percent of the reduced rate would go toward the New Jersey Urban Enterprise Zone Authority. The proposal calls for the remaining revenue to go to UEZ cities in the first three years and then gradually shift to the total amount being paid into the state's general fund by the final year.
Monique King-Viehland, Trenton's director of Housing and Economic Development, said the uncertain future of the UEZ program has caused a lull in promoting the zones and enrolling new businesses.
The city has not received UEZ funds for some time, King-Viehland said. She noted that there is between $3 million and 4 million remaining in the UEZ fund currently.
That money can be used to encourage economic development and assist businesses. Mayor Eric Jackson recently proposed using the city's UEZ money to create the Trenton Capital fund, a small business loan program that would lend between $5,000 and $100,000.
"The good thing about the revolving loan fund is that it gives us the ability to generate second generation UEZ funds so that money continues to come back into the fund," King-Viehland said.
Gov. Chris Christie has opposed the continuation of the UEZ program and has vetoed bills that would have returned money to the UEZ municipalities. Gusciora said his bill has support among other legislators and he hopes that Christie, too will support it.
"Hopefully he will see the merits of it," Gusciora said.
BY: Jenna Pizzi, Times of Trenton