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Christie Signs Bill to Overhaul N.J. Tax-Breaks Program

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Sept. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Governor Chris Christie signed a bill overhauling the way New Jersey awards tax breaks to entice companies to move to or expand in the state.

The measure merges five incentive programs into two, the Grow New Jersey awards focused on attracting employers from other states and the Economic Redevelopment and Growth program aimed at retaining businesses.

Christie, a Republican seeking a second term in November, has awarded at least $2.1 billion in tax breaks to businesses, including electronics-maker Panasonic Corp. and casino-operator Revel Entertainment Group LLC, in an effort to create jobs. New Jersey’s unemployment rate was 8.6 percent in July. While that’s down 1.1 percentage points from a year earlier, it’s above the U.S. level of 7.4 percent for that month.

“The Economic Opportunity Act incentivizes job creation, makes our state more competitive and lets private-sector employers know that New Jersey is the place where they should open their doors,” Christie, 51, said in a statement today.

Earlier this month, Christie conditionally vetoed the bill, and told lawmakers he would sign it if they removed a provision that maintenance workers at companies receiving incentives be paid an area’s prevailing wage. He also rejected another section expanding credits for the redevelopment of shuttered non-acute hospitals. Lawmakers approved his changes.

Panasonic Office

Panasonic got $102.4 million from Christie to move its North American headquarters and 1,000 jobs to Newark from Secaucus after the company had threatened to move out of the state. Christie was there this week for a ribbon cutting.

Revel was promised $261 million in tax reimbursements to open a $2.6 billion resort and casino in Atlantic City in 2012. The resort’s former owner, Revel AC Inc., filed for bankruptcy protection in March after gambling revenue was less than it projected. The resort was approved to exit court protection in May under a prearranged deal with lenders.

More than 250 companies have used the state’s assistance programs, which have attracted $11 billion in investment and created or retained 70,700 jobs, according to Christie’s office.

Philip Kirschner, president of the 21,000-member New Jersey Business & Industry Association, said the state needs to compete with neighboring Pennsylvania and New York, which both offer competitive tax incentives.

“Tax incentives, at least in my experience, are closers in a lot of negotiations,” Kirschner said today in an interview. “There’s fierce competition out there for jobs and for these facilities.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Terrence Dopp in Trenton at tdopp@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman at smerelman@bloomberg.net

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