Corzine offers checks for jobs

October 16, 2008 6:14:18 PM PDT
Gov. Jon S. Corzine laid out a sweeping financial rescue plan for New Jersey on Thursday that includes immediate assistance for homeowners facing foreclosure, tax breaks for businesses, and plans to create jobs by jump-starting highway and school construction projects. Corzine, the one-time head of the global investment firm of Goldman Sachs and now an economic spokesman for Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, called a rare joint session of the Legislature to outline a multifaceted proposal to stimulate New Jersey's economy and help residents and businesses through the national recession.

"I know New Jerseyans are worried, I know many are hurting," the governor said. "We can't stand idly by."

Corzine laid out his plan against the backdrop of what he called "the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression."

The plan, which Corzine plans to pay for by making cuts elsewhere in state government, offers mortgage and home heating assistance to struggling homeowners, would create jobs by investing in clean energy such as solar and wind, and loosens the credit crunch facing banks. Other proposals look to improve New Jersey's business climate, said to be among the most unwelcoming in the country.

Specifically, the plan:
- Directs $150 million in federal and state funds to home foreclosure prevention and neighborhood assistance.

- Creates a $50 million fund for use by community groups to buy up vacant homes and rent them to low-income residents and loans available to homeowners who are behind on their mortgages but not yet in foreclosure.

- Requires mediation in contested foreclosures. The program would be implemented in 30 days in the seven highest foreclosure counties and in 60 days for the remainder.

- Directs $9 million to Legal Services of New Jersey, which provides bankruptcy, repossession and foreclosure counseling to the poor.

- Offers $3,000 checks to businesses for every full-time job they create and keep for a year.

- Expands the property tax freeze for senior citizens by raising the income cap to $80,000, from $53,000, over three years. Eligible seniors will save $1,000 a year when the program is fully implemented.

- Invests $500 million from state-mananged cash and pension funds in community banks to encourage lending.

- Sends $3 million to food pantries to meet growing demand.

The administration estimates the cost of the initiative at $150 million in new state spending and says it would create at least 30,000 new jobs.

Some of the components of the governor's plan have already been discussed by state lawmakers. The state Assembly held a special session on Oct. 6 focusing on the economy and advanced 19 economic stimulus bills.

"The governor has presented a sweeping, first-rate plan that adds momentum to our efforts to boost small businesses, promote jobs, prevent foreclosures and ensure the poor and elderly can keep their homes warm this winter," said Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts Jr.

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. Corzine has been cool to the idea because sales tax revenues are already down by 5 percent and cutting the sales tax could further reduce that figure.

At a bakery thrift store in Egg Harbor Township, where the parking lot was full of people looking to save more than $1 by buying bread that was a few days old, Georgann Julia of Winslow Township said the help for homeowners was welcome.

"But if you want to keep people in their homes and not have them foreclosed on, don't raise their taxes in the first place," she said.

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