Oliver signs Sacco-sponsored bill to reestablish New Jersey’s Urban Enterprise Zone program

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Acting Gov. Shiela Oliver (D) signed a bill that had three primary sponsors in the state Senate, including Nick Sacco (D-32), to reestablish New Jersey’s Urban Enterprise Zone program.

Twitter photo.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

The reform bill, (A5580/S3600), restores and revises the UEZ Program and appropriates $42.5 million in Zone Assistance Funds (ZAF) for the 2022 fiscal year, bringing the program back to full operation after having been without a funding source for more than 10 years.

“The UEZ Program helps support the local economy, particularly in our urban centers,” said Acting Governor Sheila Oliver, who also serves as commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) and will now be the chair of the UEZ Authority.

“I am excited to sign this legislation today restoring UEZ funding, especially as many of these cities and businesses located in the designated communities continue to recover from the pandemic. Starting today, the UEZ Program will be an essential part of the state’s economic recovery strategy.”

Created in 1983, the UEZ Program Authority, an affiliate agency of the DCA, was created to foster an economic climate that revitalizes designated urban communities and stimulates their growth by encouraging businesses to develop and create private-sector jobs through public and private investment.

In a previous iteration of the program, UEZ provided a dedicated funding source for local economic development in the form of a reduced state sales tax.

Those state sales tax funds were then deployed in UEZ communities to promote economic development. A dedicated funding source, which ended in 2011, is being restored under the law signed today.

“The Urban Enterprise Zone program is one of our state’s most successful economic development initiatives and it helped communities like North Bergen make tremendous progress when it was in effect before Governor Christie removed its funding and essentially ended its ability to help urban municipalities,” added Sacco.

“Ever since that poor decision to end the program, I have worked tirelessly to restore it and I am thankful to my legislative colleagues for supporting it and to Governor Murphy and Acting Governor Oliver for signing it into law.”

While it was in effect, Sacco credited the UEZ program to helped North Bergen, where he also serves as mayor, attract major retailers like Walmart, Target, Home Depot, Lowes and more to the community.

Some highlights of the new bill include creating a new process for developing a zone development plan, which would have a five-year life, allowing currently designated UEZs can retain UEZ designation for 10 years, and allowing business to business sales tax exemption capped at the first $100,000 of purchases.

“As Chair of the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee, it is critically important that we foster economic growth and nurture small businesses, especially in our urban centers,” noted state Senator Troy Singleton (D-7), another primary sponsor.

“Small businesses in the designated urban communities will see a much needed boost in support from the restored Urban Enterprise Zone Program, which will greatly assist in their long-term recovery following the pandemic.”

The statewide initiative will also require the DCA to conduct an annual review at the end of the state fiscal year of each local UEZ’s use of ZAF funds, as well as prepare an annual report that must include the number of participating businesses, unemployment rate, median household income, and number of jobs in each UEZ – among other things.

“Especially as we work to recuperate from the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, this initiative will play a critical role in ensuring our urban communities and downtown centers not only fully recover but continue to attract new businesses and become even better places to live and grow,” explained state Senator M. Teresa Ruiz (D-29).

The primary sponsors in the Assembly were Gary Schaer (D-28), Angela McKnight (D-31), William Spearman (D-5), and Vincent Mazzeo (D-2).

Oliver signed the legislation into law during a press event in Elizabeth this afternoon.