Politics

Why aren’t more doctors being trained in N.J.? Start with 1996 rule congressional leaders are trying to change

There was the incredible number: The country is expected to have a shortage of 120,000 doctors by the year 2030.

And the incredible local number: New Jersey is expected to be short 2,500 doctors next year.

And then there was the even-harder-to-believe number: Holy Name Medical Center is only allowed to train six medical residents a year, thanks to a regulation based on 1996 statistics.

In that year, Holy Name had just six residents — thus, that is its limit today.

U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) is looking to change that, proposing what is called the Graduate Medical Education Bill that would allow hospitals to get reimbursement to train as many doctors as they are able.

It’s a way, he said, of tackling the coming physician shortage head-on — improving health care for state residents and the state economy at the same time.

“Our legislation corrects the arbitrary cap, which will help us recruit and retain more talented physicians to help our New Jersey medical community grow,” he said. “It will make graduate medical school slots available to hospitals that have been locked out for decades now and allow hospitals to invest in teaching programs to attract medical students to Jersey and keep our health care workforce competitive.”

Gottheimer, flanked by U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) at an event at Holy Name in Teaneck, is confident the GME bill can get through. Menendez and Pascrell said they will use their status in their legislative houses to see that it does.

“It’s just common sense to have more hospitals to have our new doctors train here in New Jersey,” Gottheimer said.

Holy Name CEO Mike Maron agrees. But, he does so knowing that nothing about the current regulations make sense.

Maron, the well-respected health care thought leader, has been stymied by this ruling for years. He points to nearby hospitals to show just how arbitrary the cap is. Simply put, every hospital is capped at the number of residents it had in 1996 — unless the hospital in question didn’t have a program. Those medical centers can add residents at will.

“Palisades General had none in 1996, now they have over 100 residents — and they are getting fully reimbursed, because the rule says if you had zero in ’96, you’re free to go,” he told ROI-NJ. “(Valley Hospital CEO) Audrey Meyers could do this unencumbered tomorrow. She wouldn’t have to do anything special. She could just start it and get paid for it. I can’t.”

All because of something that happened more than two decades ago.

“What happened in 1996 was a (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) regulation,” Maron said. “And, in order to change the regulation, you need new legislation. So, 1996, believe it or not, is the base year for how Medicare reimburses hospitals today across all services.

“The (system) Medicare uses to pay us is based on 1996 practice. Graduate medical education is a component of that system. And, so, what they did is, they just froze it.”

Despite this, most hospitals are not impacted today. Many did not have programs in 1996. Others have since joined greater health care organizations.

“There aren’t many of us left,” Maron said, refereeing to standalone hospitals.

This confusion, he said, caused a previous version of this bill to be presented poorly.

“The (Congressional Budget Office) marked up the bill all wrong,” he said. “I remember the headline: It said this bill would cost more than building a wall. How are you going to get that passed?”

Menendez said he is hopeful the new bill can be attached to upcoming legislation on Medicare.

Maron said it can’t happen soon enough.

He said no one in the state would object, saying more than 300 graduates last year did not have residency programs available. Holy Name, he said, would gladly take them.

And Holy Name already has a bigger partner ready to help provide students and assistance: Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

Mount Sinai Chief Medical Officer Ben Kornitzer said the hospital is ready to partner.

“We understand the resources and investment that are needed to be made for this to be a successful program,” he said. “We are 100% committed to working with the excellent leadership here and identifying what those resources are, what those strategies are, so we can be partners and help support further growth of this residency program.”

Maron said new rules — and a new partnership with Mount Sinai — could help change another number: The small percentage of medical graduates who actually want to become the doctors that are needed most: general practitioners.

“Many of the major academic centers want to train specialists because the general perception out there is that there’s more money to be made being a specialist and better work hours,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is dispel that myth.

“We’re going to show doctors that you can have a balanced lifestyle and have a very rewarding career as a primary care physician. We think we can move that needle significantly by exposing them to how we do things here.”

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Murphy announces weeklong September trade mission to India

Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday announced a seven-day trade mission to India in September, aimed at strengthening ties with the state’s second-largest foreign direct investor.

Murphy will visit six cities as part of the trip, including Delhi, Agra, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar. The visit will make him the first governor of New Jersey to visit India on official business, the Governor’s Office said.

The focus of the economic mission is to strengthen business ties with India, cultivate international investment opportunities here and deepen cultural and economic ties between the state and nation. Murphy noted in his remarks that New Jersey has the nation’s fourth-largest Indian community, at an estimated 420,000-plus residents — a number that also makes the Indian community the state’s largest ethnic minority group.

“As India’s role as one of our key partners continues to expand, we want to make sure we maximize the potential of our economic relationship,” Murphy said at the event. “I am excited to make the case for New Jersey as a leading investment choice for Indian companies, creating lasting partnerships and good jobs for our residents. We are proud to be home of one of America’s most deeply-rooted Indian American communities, and growing our economic partnership will only strengthen those ties.”

The news of the trip was first reported in April by ROI-NJ, when state Economic Development Authority CEO Tim Sullivan described plans during an Indian Business Association event.

Plans for the trip include meeting with key government and industry leaders, as well as visits to companies and official announcements.

The trade delegation will include Murphy, first lady Tammy Murphy, Choose New Jersey CEO and President Jose Lozano, Sullivan and other officials.

“We are thrilled to be part of Gov. Murphy’s economic mission to India in September,” Lozano said. “New Jersey is a leader in the life sciences, medical technology, clean energy and manufacturing, and we are the best place for international companies to do business. We look forward to strengthening our close cultural and economic ties with our partners in India during this trip, and attracting more businesses to invest in the Garden State.”

Added Sullivan: “In our increasingly interconnected world, driving international trade and investment is critical to making New Jersey a global competitor and building a foundation for long-term, sustainable economic growth. As the country with the third-largest (gross domestic product) in terms of purchasing power, India is already a formidable player in the international economy, and the country’s influence is only continuing to grow. Gov. Murphy’s trip is an important step forward that will pave the way for new business partnerships between New Jersey and India and bring more investment and jobs to the Garden State.”

Murphy announced the trip at an event presented by the Asian Indian Chamber of Commerce held at the Spice Culture restaurant in South Plainfield.

Officials from the Somerset-based chamber — celebrating its 25th anniversary this year — presented Murphy with a “good luck shawl” and plaque at the start of the remarks.

“We are so honored that Gov. Phil Murphy has chosen the Asian Indian Chamber of Commerce to announce his trade mission to India in September of this year,” chamber President Priti Pandya-Patel said in her introduction. “As a community leader, business owner and longtime resident of New Jersey, it is so remarkable that this administration has made extra effort to embrace the value of our Asian Indian Americans for their contributions in New Jersey as well as recognizing the strengths of the companies based in India. On behalf of the board of directors and members of the Asian Indian Chamber of Commerce, we would like to wish Gov. Murphy and his team a safe and successful journey to India.”

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Choose N.J. details Irish business mission trip

Choose New Jersey announced its lineup and itinerary for a business attraction mission to Ireland that is taking place next week.

The group representing New Jersey will consist of 18 individuals, including business leaders from around the state, plus officials from Choose and the state Economic Development Authority.

Stops on the schedule include Dublin, Cork and Galway between July 8 and 10.

The trip includes meetings largely with medical and health companies and institutions, as well as technology and educational groups.

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N.J.’s small businesses won $2.1B in federal contracts in FY18, SBA reports

New Jersey small businesses received $2.1 billion in federal contracts during fiscal 2018, according to the Small Business Administration, part of $120.8 billion awarded nationwide.

The state also reached the mandatory goal of 23% of contracting dollars going to small businesses, according to SBA New Jersey District Director Al Titone.

The $120 billion in nationwide contracts represented a record for the federal government, SBA Regional Administrator Steve Bulger said. Bulger, who oversees programs in New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, noted that the government earned an “A” on the annual Small Business Federal Procurement Scorecard as a result.

“We are finding that the annual Procurement Scorecard is an effective tool that measures how well federal agencies reach their small business and socioeconomic contracting and subcontracting goals,” bulger said in a prepared statement. “It is important to remember that SBA is providing accurate and transparent contracting data, as well as reports on the specific progress each federal agency is making toward meeting their overall contracting goals.”

Titone listed some other statistics for New Jersey:

  • Small disadvantaged businesses received $752 million in federal contracts, surpassing the mandatory 5% goal at 8% of total dollars;
  • Women-owned small businesses received $464.4 million in federal contracts, just under the mandatory 5% goal at a 4.95% rate;
  • Service disabled veteran-owned small businesses received $146 million in federal contracts, below the mandatory 3% goal at 1.5%;
  • Historically Underutilized Business Zone, or HUBZone, businesses received $65 million in federal contracts, below the mandatory 3% goal at 0.7%.

“Our work is never done when it comes to achieving contracting goals,” Bulger said. “In New Jersey, our focus will be on women-owned small businesses, certified HUBZone companies and service disabled veteran-owned small businesses. To make sure we are improving on all fronts, we are continuing to collaborate and have discussions with federal agencies on ways to expand opportunities for more small business contractors in our region to be better prepared to compete and win federal contracts.”

Nationally, the $120.8 billion represented 25.1% of federal contract dollars, also exceeding the 23% mandate. The total was up nearly $15 billion from the prior fiscal year.

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Murphy meets with Colombian Ambassador; discusses potential trip to Latin America

Gov. Phil Murphy met with Colombian Ambassador Francisco Santos Calderón this week to discuss the importance of the country’s economic value to New Jersey, as well as a potential trip to Latin America and opening the door for greater economic ties.

The meeting was attended by Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce chairman Luis De La Hoz, Choose New Jersey CEO Jose Lozano and other representatives from the state and the Economic Development Authority.

“We discussed if (New Jersey) is considering an office in Latin America, please consider Colombia,” De La Hoz said.

Companies including Google, Uber and Amazon already have laid the foundation for a Colombian office by opening their own Latin American hubs in Colombia.

In addition, De La Hoz, a Colombian-American, said the governor could plan a trip to Latin America next year, as well as plan to visit the presidents of the various countries at the United Nations General Assembly in September.

“We are pushing that he visit Latin America, especially Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Mexico — not just because of the population, but because of the trade,” De La Hoz said.

“The Dominican Republic has a larger population (in New Jersey), but because it’s an island, you cannot grow the trade (with them) and they don’t produce many products or services that we can trade with them.”

De La Hoz said agriculture and infrastructure, as well as health care, are sectors that provide the best opportunity for greater ties.

According to information from the Economic Development Authority, as of 2018, Colombia’s impact is $1.25 billion in trade of goods, and the country is the sixth-largest goods export market of New Jersey in Latin America.

The sectors New Jersey exports to Colombia most include essential oils and perfumes, nuclear reactors, boilers and machinery and other chemical products. New Jersey largely imports mineral fuel and oil from Colombia.

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Murphy shocked the Legislature voted to extend current incentives: ‘I am awe-struck’

Gov. Phil Murphy said he was shocked the legislature passed a bill Thursday that would extend the existing tax incentive programs set to expire at the end of the month.

“I have to say … I am awe-struck, jaw-dropped, something, by the folks who voted to extend the economic development incentives,” he said.

“This is a law, it’s quite clear, that was written by special interests, for special interests.”

Murphy spoke at a news conference to address the $38.7 billion budget, also passed by the legislature Thursday, which aligns with much of the governor’s agenda, but doesn’t give him the millionaire’s tax he wants.

When asked by a reporter if, by allowing the existing tax incentives to continue to be approved while the deadline looms, Murphy was implicitly condoning the special interests that created the law, the governor rebuffed.

“The good news is … is that we put new sheriff’s in there,” Murphy said.

“I’m prepared to play the string out for the next nine days because I have complete confidence in (Economic Development Authority CEO) Tim Sullivan, Kevin Quinn, the chair, new compliance officer.”

The state has nine days remaining until it must pass a balanced budget.

Murphy was joined by Treasurer Elizabeth Muoio to reiterate that the millionaire’s tax will help boost the state’s coffers in a way that will help credit ratings agencies renew their faith in New Jersey’s fiscal future.

“I know I sound like a broken record at this point, but I’d be derelict in my duties as treasurer if I don’t use every opportunity to urge fiscal responsibility,” Muoio said.

“If a recession hits, and the bottom drops out, like it did during the dot com recession, to the tune of $2 billion to our revenue, or worse, like it did during the Great Recession when we lost nearly $5 billion in revenue — that’s what a rainy day really looks like.

“And we won’t be able to rely on structural savings or phantom revenue projections to get by if that happens.”

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Poll: Booker maintains low support, but slightly up, among Dem voters nationwide

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker is maintaining minimal support among Democratic voters nationwide, but is up a percentage point from May, according to the latest Monmouth University Poll.

Coming in as the front runner is former Vice President Joe Biden with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders now virtually tied for second place.

The poll found that Biden is considered the most-electable candidate against President Donald Trump — among both his own supporters and those who are currently backing other candidates.

Among a field of 24 contenders, Biden has 32% support from Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters, compared to 33% last month. Warren’s support has moved up five points to 15% from 10% in May. Sanders is holding steady at 14%, which is similar to his 15% support last month.

Other candidates in the poll include California Sen. Kamala Harris (8%, down from 11% in May), South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg (5% current, 6% May), former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke (3% current, 4% May), Booker (2% current, 1% May), and entrepreneur Andrew Yang (2% current, 1% May). Candidates receiving 1% of support include Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar (down from 3% in May), New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, and author Marianne Williamson.  The remaining 11 candidates in the poll receive less than 1% or were not selected by any respondents.

“Biden maintains his lead but there is plenty percolating in the tier right below him. Next week will provide the first opportunity for voters to see these candidates side by side.  Well, at least they’ll see some of them side by side,” Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, said.

The poll asked respondents about the perceived “electability” of 11 candidates and found Biden is considered the top nominee with the best chance of beating Trump in 2020. When asked to rate Biden on a scale from 0 (would definitely lose to Trump) to 10 (would definitely beat Trump), 59% of voters gave him an 8, 9 or 10. Just 9% scored him less than 5. Sanders and Warren are somewhat less electable, the poll found, but similar to eachother. Sanders has an average score of 6.5 among 93% of Democratic voters and Warren averages a 6.4 from 84% of voters. Harris averages a 6 from 83%, Buttigieg averages 5.6 from 75%, O’Rourke averages 5.3 from 78% and Booker averages 5.3 from 78%.

“Democratic voters have told us that electability matters in 2020. The perception that Biden is the party’s best shot against Trump separates him from the rest of the pack in the minds of his own supporters. Other Democratic voters also tend to see Biden as a highly electable nominee. This could play to his advantage as the field gets winnowed, but only if he can maintain this aura as the primary campaign really gets underway,” Murray said.

“Electability is in the eye of the supporter. At this early stage of the race, voters have not had a chance to make direct comparisons among the candidates, which makes it is easier to project a sense of electability on almost anyone in the field. All this could change after next week’s debates,” he said.

The poll was conducted from June 12 to 17 with 751 adults in the United States. Results are based on 306 registered voters who identify as Democrats or leaning, which has a +/- 5.6 percentage point margin of error.

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Business leaders voice support for Murphy’s incentive proposals

In a series of statements provided by the Governor’s Office on Wednesday, several business leaders supported Gov. Phil Murphy’s proposed tax incentive programs.

They include:

James Barrood, CEO and president of the New Jersey Tech Council:

The Tech Council has been investing in New Jersey startups for nearly two decades and we strongly believe that, through its self-sustaining nature and mentor-centric focus, the proposed New Jersey Innovation Evergreen Fund will play a major role reshaping New Jersey’s innovation economy and propelling the Garden State into a national leader in this vital sector. We wholeheartedly welcome the proposed fund and see it as a game-changer for the investor community.

Jay Bhatti, cofounder at BrandProject LP:

As an investor and board member in two leading New Jersey tech startups, Vydia and Gridless Power, I find the governor’s proposal having huge potential to positively impact New Jersey’s innovation economy. For too long, young companies have not had the incentives, resources or access to senior leadership from the state that bigger companies have enjoyed. By making it easier for young/small businesses to access incentives from the EDA, we can ensure that these companies can get big and contribute to the state and their local community. Gov. Murphy’s pro-growth agenda with small businesses and startups is critical to the future of New Jersey’s reemergence as a hub for innovation. In fact, after his speech, I spoke with a few New Jersey VCs, and we all agreed this is important for the state and the tech industry. We stand in strong support with Gov. Murphy and Tim Sullivan at the (Economic Development Authority).”

Jim Gunton, managing partner of Tech Council Ventures:

The New Jersey startup tech community is replete with talented entrepreneurs and innovators. Gov. Murphy’s Innovation Evergreen Fund is exactly the catalyst needed to compete with the nation’s other hotbeds.

John Harmon, CEO and president of the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey:

Gov. Murphy’s thoughtful approach to incentives will help to ensure equitable, inclusive economic development that will benefit more New Jerseyans. Supporting businesses that offer employment opportunities in high-growth sectors and drive investment in communities where it’s most needed will lead to improved quality of life for New Jersey families. Lastly, good stewardship of taxpayers’ dollars achieves its objectives when accountability is baked into the process, resources and opportunities are distributed equitably, and the transformational effects of the investment are experienced by all stakeholders.

Debbie Hart, president of BioNJ:

At BioNJ, we support a strong package of incentives that has the ability to attract and retain companies at all levels. We are hopeful that programs such as the Innovation Evergreen Fund will make their way to reality, along with a broad array of other incentives, so that our biopharmaceutical companies and future companies can look to New Jersey as a place in which to grow and prosper.

Hosea Johnson, chairman of the board of directors of the AACCNJ:

Gov. Murphy’s presentation in Cherry Hill clearly articulated policy positions that create a fairer economy for New Jersey taxpayers, workers and the business community. The governor provides optimism that we can have a fair economic democracy in New Jersey, rather than policy that concentrates wealth in the hands of a very few. He also encouraged the New Jersey business community to practice a corporate statesmanship that truly will lift all boats. I share the governor’s positions that we must support our labor unions and new forms of labor associations to give workers and taxpayers more voice. There are many things that can be done. The point is to begin.

Anne-Marie Maman, executive director of Princeton Entrepreneurship Council:

With the increase of great technologies being spun out of Princeton University, and with high-growth-potential companies filling up the Princeton Innovation Center Biolabs, we are looking forward to the impact of the New Jersey Innovation Evergreen Fund. Increased availability of venture funding for high quality technology companies will help to push innovation forward in New Jersey.

Carlos Medina, CEO and president of Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey:

The mission of the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey is to help position diverse entrepreneurs and business owners for success. Gov. Murphy’s vision for incentives that target businesses of all sizes and foster a supportive business climate aligns with the chamber’s goals and will help to extend more inclusive opportunities to New Jersey’s 120,000 Hispanic-owned businesses.

Aaron Price, founder of Propelify:

As a leader among the startup community, I’m tired of watching my founder friends move across the river or across the country. Finally, we have a leader in Gov. Murphy who understands that the startup and innovation economy in New Jersey is both inventing our future and employing our neighbors. In particular, I’m excited about the how the Evergreen Fund will infuse the startup ecosystem with capital to draw smart and experienced investors with best-in-class companies to the state.”

Suuchi Ramesh, CEO of Suuchi Inc.:

Much of the success we are experiencing here is a result of the state’s logistical advantages and the availability to recruit diverse, skilled employees that can hit the ground running. Gov. Murphy’s focus on building a talent pool and business climate that support the jobs of the future will enable high-growth sectors such as advanced manufacturing and modern technology to flourish. We are excited to continue to grow here in the Garden State and expand our customer base.

Stephen Socolof, managing partner, Tech Council Ventures:

The proposed New Jersey Innovation Evergreen Fund will bring more capital for growth to the most promising startups in the state by providing matching capital to our local leading venture funds like Tech Council Ventures and by attracting venture funds from outside the state to invest here with the promise of the additional matching capital from the Innovation Evergreen Fund.

Chris Sugden, managing partner, Edison Partners:

Public and private partnership supporting New Jersey’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is a win-win-win for the state, its investors and our innovation economy. Earlier-stage entrepreneurs have an identified need and the New Jersey Innovation Evergreen Fund and EDA are looking to put investment dollars to good, right and useful work. We’re very proud to add that our own last two growth investments were in two such homegrown New Jersey tech companies and local employers: Suuchi Inc. and Northpass.

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Assembly panel votes to extend incentives — but Murphy is all but certain to veto bill

With less than three weeks left until some of the state’s existing tax incentive programs expire, the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee voted unanimously Thursday to extend the programs until 2020.

The bill is not likely to be signed by Gov. Phil Murphy.

The bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin (D-Newark), saw heated debate over whether or not to continue existing programs or to let the Grow New Jersey and Economic Redevelopment and Growth grant programs end June 30.

The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce thanked the Assembly committee for advancing the bill, saying the state will not have enough time to implement new incentive programs.

“Recognizing that the current programs took approximately 18 months to effectuate, we cannot create a new, more effective, functioning program within the next two weeks,” Executive Vice President Michael Egenton said.

“Nor can we allow for the current ones to expire. A state that lets its economic growth incentives lapse signals that it is ‘out of business.’”

The governor has a small window to take action, but he has repeatedly said he will not extend the existing programs, noting the state comptroller’s audit, which found weak internal controls at the Economic Development Authority in the assessment and accountability of awards already approved.

“I will not unilaterally disarm our economic development while our competitor states are luring businesses, in part, through incentives,” he said at a recent news conference.

“However, I will not simply renew a set of incentive programs when serious questions exist about whether they have been successful in spurring broad-based economic activity in our communities, or even if their most basic promises have been met.

Murphy has introduced his proposed replacement programs, but no bills have made it through the Legislature yet.

“What this is about is making sure we have policies in place that don’t just allow some to do well, but which allow entire communities to do well,” Murphy said in a statement after the unveiling of the new incentives.

“Our proposed incentives meet this test. Our current program failed this test.”

The governor’s programs include spending caps, which was supported by New Jersey Policy Perspective President Brandon McKoy.

“We discuss the effect these programs have had with national experts … this is a best practice they suggest,” McKoy said, adding that caps essentially act as a budget for the state and will help predictability.

“Other than the findings of multiple reviews and analyses by other independent actors, the Fiscal Impact Statement that accompanied the final version of the 2013 EOA clearly states that the loss of revenue to the state’s Treasury, due to credit redemptions, would be enormous,” he said.

“It also says that the levels of Corporate Business Tax uncertainty and losses, even with implied increased local spending and jobs development, could be substantial and result in a decade of direct business tax revenue reductions and losses. While some would like to deny the reality, those warnings have come to fruition.”

Anthony Pizzutillo, founder and principle of Pizzutillo Public Affairs, said the caps would create more uncertainty for businesses, which can take more than a couple of years to set up in New Jersey and apply for tax incentives.

“Since we have a net benefits test, we don’t need caps,” he said.

Pizzutillo also said that a majority of businesses have moved to distressed areas of the state.

“Seventy-two percent of awards over last five years have been to statutorily-defined distressed areas,” he said.

When legislators brought up that Hudson County created more jobs, but a greater total of tax awards were given to Camden County, Pizzutillo said the idea behind more generous incentives has to do with the idea that Camden was more distressed than Hudson County, so the investment of a business would be more expensive.

Andrew Musick, with the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, said states across the country use incentives, and the programs in New Jersey help the state compete.

The incentives have helped Camden and Newark, he said, but re-evaluating existing programs is necessary.

The Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey, which represents 11,000 businesses — and was founded by Campbell Soup Co. and RCA when they were the largest employers in Camden — also supported the incentives.

Christina Renna, vice president of the chamber, said the programs have done what they were supposed to do, and that the Economic Opportunity Act’s inclusion of Camden as a focus was the first time the city saw a real change.

But that could be changing simply by the political climate around tax incentives, she said.

Renna said two companies halted plans to open locations in Camden after the battle over tax incentives started.

“We fear more businesses will be moving out of Camden,” she said.

“Two businesses that had committed to moving into Camden have declined moving into Camden. One is a large employer, one is … a midsize employer. One of the businesses specifically cited the political climate. So, words matter.”

ROI-NJ has learned the companies were Union Packaging of Yeadon, Pennsylvania, and Men of Steel of Bensalem, Pennsylvania.

The committee vote sets the stage for the bill to be heard next week by the full Assembly.

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Bill for legal issues surrounding EDA may soon top $1M

The ongoing EDA Incentives Task Force created by Gov. Phil Murphy, along with an investigation being conducted by the Attorney General’s Office, has already cost the New Jersey Economic Development Authority more than half a million dollars in legal fees.

That number may soon double.

The EDA has been billed more than $400,000 in legal fees through April, with an anticipated bill of $220,000 for May, according to officials at the monthly EDA meeting Tuesday.

In February, the EDA retained, through a Request for Proposal process, the law firm Friedman Kaplan Seiler and Adelman, which has offices in Newark and New York, for one year at a maximum cost of $250,000.

That maximum was increased by $400,000, to a cap of $650,000, by board approval in May.

At the meeting Tuesday, the board approved another $400,000 increase in the limit, pushing the cap above $1 million for the year.

The contract with the law firm allows three additional years, if an extension is approved by board, and includes all litigation that names the authority.

The legal bills have escalated with a lawsuit brought on by a team of lawyers representing South Jersey Democratic powerbroker George Norcross III, a law firm run by Norcross’ brother Phil Norcross, and George Norcross’ business interests.

The lawsuit is calling for an end to the task force, which Norcross believes does not have the authority to investigate incentives awarded to his companies and companies tied to him.

The legal battle is the result of the incentive task force’s second hearing, which focused heavily on Camden and companies that moved to or stayed in Camden after being awarded tax incentives.

Questions surrounding the applications and how they were processed by the EDA dominated that hearing in May and resulted in an escalating battle between Norcross and Murphy.

EDA Board Chair Kevin Quinn, who was appointed by the governor in May, said the authority has been changing its processes and taken seriously the issues found in the Office of the State Comptroller’s audit late last year.

That includes, Quinn said, exploring all options to pursue recapturing or repayment of funds “expended improperly” to companies in the state.

The EDA also approved a memorandum of understanding between the authority and the Commission on Science, Innovation and Technology — a previously dormant commission that was reinstated by the governor last year.

As the EDA ramps up its focus on innovation and startup businesses, the relationship between the commission and the authority is mutually beneficial, according to EDA CEO Tim Sullivan.

The partnership will include offering office space and administrative support to the commission, but no direct financial support, Sullivan said.

The MOU was unanimously approved by the board Tuesday.

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