Today, a joint hearing of Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee & Senate Economic Growth Committee is looking at process and outcome of the state Economic Development Authority (EDA) tax incentive program. Our electeds are hearing only invited guests testify; the majority of whom are from companies who a vested inter in reforming how the EDA doles out tax advantages at our expense, in fact they may be directly benefitting. This follows an audit by the NJ Office of the State Comptroller of the state (EDA) tax incentive programs, finding that at least 20% of the jobs promised from the incentive programs have not been created.
Long time coming. Community orgs, unions, groups like New Jersey Policy Perspective, have questioned EDA’s actions for years. So has Blue Jersey. That’s another reason why this process should be tough, transparent, and accountable. Reform is required. And a process that begins by hearing only invited guests
isn’t a good look for a process that should be transparent and accountable. Finally.
Outside the hearing this morning, some of the South Jersey residents who feel shut out by the Legislature’s process gathered outside the Statehouse. South Jersey Women for Progressive Change said this: “Rarely is the contrast between those on the ‘inside’ and those outside the power structures so clear [snip] The audit revealed billions of dollars in taxpayer money was given to corporations without any method for tracking accountability. The fact that legislators are not actively seeking public testimony on the EDA audit indicates that they are not concerned with rectifying the lack of transparency and accountability that has troubled this program from the beginning.”
Video from this morning’s protest is posted below in the 1st comment.
Doled out sensibly, and with the focus on New Jersey’s working people, a tax incentive program would be valuable. But doled out as a gift to companies allowed to evade their promises of jobs for our people, with lax oversight from the state, it amounts to corporate welfare. New Jersey workers have a lot to say about that, and the Legislature should hear it. There are so many reasons why omitting the public from this discussion is egregious. I’ll start you off with these:
- Legislature & Governor should never forget that this program is supposed to exist to lift New Jersey workers, not merely serve corporate interest. Shutting out workers’ voices, taxpayers’ voices, locals’ voices, when it’s now confirmed that EDA skipped annual review, provided little oversight and failed to require companies to deliver on jobs is wrong. Ditto EDA’s apparent failure to use this system to spur economic growth for NJ.
- During the Christie years, much of EDA’s corporate welfare was directed for the benefit of one person and his allies and friends; Democratic party boss George Norcross, whose “renaissance” of Camden is largely about privatization and corporate build-up. Clear problem.
- We now know the corporate culture the state’s tax incentive program supported includes racist, classist assumptions about local Camden workers. Holtec raked in $260 million of the public’s money in the very city the company’s CEO looks down on.
- Holtec was the largest subsidy recipient. And we have a right to expect the Legislature to do better in addressing the company’s excuse-making and discrimination against local workers than their Congressman Don Norcross did. Given a chance to defend his Camden constituents, Norcross sided with Holtec’s CEO and added some stunning slurs of his own. You’d think the Legislature would take pains to be transparent in its examination of all this – particularly since Norcross was elevated to Congress out of this Legislature, and particularly because the Norcross family is deeply enmeshed in how the taxpayers’ money was spent, and who it benefits.
- Now add the other needs New Jersey has where our money might be spent: infrastructure, public education, higher education, housing …
Video of this morning’s protest below in the Comments.
Photo credits: Thanks, SJWPC.