Corzine to propose broad stimulus plan

October 15, 2008 5:32:53 PM PDT
Gov. Jon S. Corzine has called a rare joint session of the Legislature Thursday to lay out a broad plan to help New Jersey through the national recession, including measures to help homeowners stave off foreclosure, provide tax breaks for businesses and create jobs through investment in clean energy and infrastructure. Several people briefed on the governor's economic stimulus plan, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order not to upstage the governor before his announcement, said it contains programs to offer immediate help and stimulate job growth, as well as lay the foundation for the future. The total cost of the initiatives is said to be around $150 million.

The governor estimates 30,000 jobs will be created, some from turnpike and parkway widening projects that will be paid for with recently approved toll increases.

"The governor's overall theme is to act aggressively to minimize the pain New Jerseyans are experiencing and make as many structural changes we can so that when we get out of the crisis New Jersey will be as strong as possible," said Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts Jr., who would not discuss the governor's specific plans before Thursday's address.

Corzine declined to talk about the plan after an event in Newark on Wednesday.

Those briefed on the plan say the governor will propose creating a $50 million fund to help forestall home mortgage foreclosures.

The money could be used to help homeowners who are behind on their mortgages but not yet in foreclosure and by community groups to buy up vacant homes and rent them to low-income residents. Communities hardest hit by foreclosures would be targeted.

Corzine also is expected to propose a $25 million program to help 1,000 homeowners in danger of foreclosure by having the lender and the state write off a portion of the troubled mortgage and have the state to assume a second mortgage on the property.

Some of the components of the governor's plan have already been discussed by state lawmakers. The state Assembly held a special session focusing on the economy on Oct. 6.

More recently, Republicans proposed cutting the state's 7 percent sales tax in half for the holiday shopping season in order to stimulate consumer spending.

Another component of the governor's plan would provide an economic incentive for businesses to create jobs. Any business with more than five workers would get a $3,000 tax break for each job it created and kept for a year.

Businesses also would get to write off operating losses for 20 years, instead of the current seven years. Companies making capital improvements would get a sales tax break under the plan. And businesses with facilities, employees and sales in New Jersey would no longer be penalized by having to pay taxes for all three.

On the energy front, the governor will propose investing in wind, solar and biofuels, with the twin incentives of job creation and energy savings. The governor hopes to create additional green jobs by making public buildings and schools more energy efficient, using Board of Public Utilities money to do it.

Residents struggling to pay heating costs would get additional help under Corzine's plan, and food pantries would get a $2.5 million infusion of cash to meet growing demand.

Corzine's initiative also contains plans to help loosen the credit crunch. One proposal involves buying certificates of deposit at community banks to provide them with money to make loans.

Another involves helping municipalities get short-term financing to meet payroll and daily operating expenses.

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