The spirited debate over corporate welfare that’s engulfing they New Jersey Democrats has officially arrived in Union County. It was probably there already but WMYC’s Nancy Solomon brought it all into sharp relief in her compelling multi-part series about the New Jersey Economic Development Agency’s billion-dollar tax subsidy scheme.
My advice: listen at the gym and let all that rage fuel the best work out of your life.
But in the meantime, let’s bring it back to Union County, population 555,758, and home to NJ’s 20th legislative district, currently represented by Senator Joe Cryan who recently replaced the redoubtable Raymond Lesniak.
Cryan and his predecessor Lesniak were both serving in Trenton in 2013 when these EDA subsidies were supercharged by the state legislature. A subsequent audit of EDA was unsparing and Governor Phil Murphy vowed reform.
“First off the governor is correct in terms of his description (of EDA’s troubles,)” NJ Senator Joe Cryan told WNYC.” And secondly, it was a rushed 48 hour process where that bill changed, went through two committees in the assembly and the senate. There was no time to even read it thoroughly nor obviously vet it.”
Raymond Lesniak, has very different views about the agency dispensing lavish tax-payer subsidized tax breaks like it’s going out of style.
“The facts are very simple,” Lesniak told WNYC. “Without these tax incentives, we don’t lose revenues. People who have criticized these tax incentives don’t understand simple math.”
First of all, it’s almost comforting knowing that, even in retirement, Ray Lesniak is smarter than the rest of us. There’s a real sense of continuity there. Secondly, I know enough about math to know that when all those billion dollar subsidies kept flying out the door, Lesniak’s Union County district got scraps.
And FWIW, I know enough about math to know that letting the lobbyists write their own bill is a bad deal and that falsifying grant applications is dubious and unethical.
But whatever about all that, right Senator Lesniak?
The 20th district’s paltry EDA takeaway is proof that the South Jersey machine never thought much of the venerable old Senator Lesniak to begin with. Camden got their billions while Union County got pocket change.
Who doesn’t understand math again?
But Union’s paltry, negligible EDA benefits didn’t stop Senator Lesniak from carrying EDA’s water anyway, joining former Governors Jon Corzine, Jim Florio, Chris Christie and Jim McGreevy all strong, vocal supporters of corporate welfare for fabulously wealthy corporations. This, despite their differing political pedigree.
There’s a huge battle going on right now between Governor Murphy and the South Jersey Democratic machine and EDA’s future in on the balance. The increased scrutiny on these lavish tax deals has not been flattering, The EDA has yet to persuasively justify why all this generosity is a good deal for those of us who actually do pay taxes.
The scrutiny is overdue and justified.
Jay Lassiter went to rehab in 2003 and woke up in a Kafka novel also known as New Jersey politics. He runs a bootleg needle exchange out of his trunk in Camden once or twice a month.