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As part of a very abbreviated cross-examination period, state Senator Joe Lagana (D-38) wanted to know
if South Jersey Power Broker George Norcross III had been personally involved in the drafting of a tax incentive program that benefited his business interests.
“I was a huge advocate for an incentive program for Paterson, Camden, Trenton,” Norcross told Lagana.
“A suggestion that the legislation was written for four or five companies is absurd,” he added. “The [2013 Economic Opportunity] act was not dsigned for any one municipaltiy. The act was designed to induce, incentivize and love companies willing to take a risk.”
Norcross said the core of what would became the act began the Corzine Administration, continued during the administration of Governor Chris Christie.
“We are all proud of the act that was written,” Norcross said.
Lagana offered a single follow-up question, pressing him on the nature of his advocacy and influence on the actual craftin of the tax incentive legislation.
“I wasn’t involved in the acutal drafting but I was an advocate,” Norcross said.
The name of Kevin Sheehan, an attorney at Parker McCay, the law firm of Norcross’ brother Philip, surfaced in the wake of a criminal referral to law enforcement authorities by a Governor’s Task Force examining the state Economic Development Authority’s (EDA) awarding of tax incentives during Christie’s tenure. The firm is registered with the state Election Law Enforcement Commission as a government affairs entity, but according to ELEC, an individual must formally register as a lobbyist if he passes the threshold of 20 hours of lobbying. Philip Norcross is registered as lobbyist. Sheehan is not.
Repeatedly making his case for the tax incentives, George Norcross said Cooper Hospital is the largest employer in the county and the city. The hospital existed for 135 years. If the city were to continue to fail, the decisions made by prior trustees, “including my father”, the hospital would have to relocate.
The power broker took a shot at his critics, bemoaning those “some [who] are against everything and for nothing.”
Moments later, he said, “I am here, peace on earth, goodwill toward men.”
“I am Camden’s cheerleader,” Norcross added. “We’ve gotten some major enterprises [to stay, including Campbell’s Soup].”
No other Democratic senator offered a significant question or follow-up question.