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Senate President Steve Sweeney. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe).

Sweeney condemns tax incentive abuses

Senate president says programs’ benefits should be reviewed

By Nikita Biryukov, March 28 2019 5:29 pm

Senate President Steve Sweeney called for the task force convened by Gov. Phil Murphy to investigate abuses of the Economic Development Authorities’ tax incentive programs review the benefits of the EDA even as he condemned alleged misdeeds committed by businesses using the incentives.

“The hearing included assertions of misconduct that are completely unacceptable and should not have been allowed to go undetected,” Sweeney said. “If any companies violated their agreements or defaulted on their promises to the EDA they should be identified. If anyone committed fraud, lied or cheated, they should be held accountable.”

At the EDA Task Force’s first hearing Thursday, former Jackson Hewitt vice president Gulsen Kama alleged the firm lied on an application for an award under the Grow NJ problem.

She said the firm claimed it was considering moving its headquarters out of state. Kama said then-CEO David Prokupek told her the company was only looking to in-state locations for its planned move, among other things.

In a statement, the firm denied any wrongdoing and said it planned to cooperate with the investigation.

While Murphy has savaged the authority’s programs since the publication of the State Comptroller’s audit of the EDA, Sweeney has regarded it more fondly.

Sweeney has said the EDA’s programs needed greater oversight while praising the incentives for their role in the revitalizations of cities like Newark and Camden, the roost of power broker George Norcross, a close friend of Sweeney’s.

“We want an accurate accounting of the successes, weaknesses and failings of the current programs so that we can make an informed decision about their renewal and any needed reforms,” Sweeney said. “We can’t forget that these programs are for the benefit of job holders, job seekers and the state’s economy.”

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