More than two dozen Urban Enterprise Zones are operating in cities across the Garden State, charging customers half the normal sales tax. But the UEZs are set to expire over the next couple of years.

In response, some lawmakers want to keep them for at least another 10 years, and reinstate UEZs in Bridgeton, Camden, Newark, Plainfield and Trenton after their designation expired at the end of 2016.

State Sen. Shirley Turner, D-Mercer, said her measure, which extends 27 Urban Enterprise Zones, is extremely important for our urban communities because “it provides an incentive for businesses to locate in these urban areas where they have a very low tax base.”

Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, D-Mercer, who is a sponsor the UEZ extension bill and represents the city of Trenton, agrees.

“UEZs have been an economic empowerment, especially for urban areas,” he said.

“They’ve been important for urban revitalization, economic empowerment for the cities, and in the end it translates to jobs.”

Cities are often home to government buildings, colleges, medical centers and other nonprofit entities that don't pay property taxes. As a result, home and business owners end up shouldering a greater tax burden, Turner said.

“This would provide an incentive for companies to locate in these communities and hire those people who live in those communities," she said.

Turner says her legislation also requires “a comprehensive analysis of the program to determine how effective it’s been and what we can do to make it even more effective.”

She stressed UEZs are great for consumers “because they will pay half the sales tax that they would have to pay outside those enterprise zones.”

Turner noted the UEZ program is also a benefit for taxpayers because “they’re the ones who have to pick up the cost for those people who are unemployed and on public assistance.”

Andrew Musick, the vice president of taxation and economic development at the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, says his organization is supporting the measure to extend UEZs.

“They were created for Main Street and they’ve helped countless small businesses through the years,” he said.

“The UEZs exist to stimulate job growth and economic development and they also help to revitalize designated urban communities."

He explained businesses in UEZs get tax exemptions, subsidies for unemployment insurance and corporate tax credits for hiring and investing.

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