NJ Speaker to introduce Meadowlands reform bill
Looking to spur job creation and economic growth in northern New Jersey while also eliminating government bureaucracy by merging two major state agencies, Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto (D-Secaucus) said he plans to introduce a Meadowlands region reform measure. The bill would also change the tax sharing system used by 14 area towns.
The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority and the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission would be consolidated under the legislation and the Hackensack Meadowlands Transportation Planning District would be reestablished.
"When you can have government become smaller it's really what everybody always talks about," Prieto said. "It's win-win for everybody because the efficiencies, the savings will get passed along to everyone in the state of New Jersey. We've got to see if there are any overlapping services. As legislators and leaders in the state we always try to find efficiencies."
The idea behind the tax sharing system that was created in the early 1970s was to share the costs and benefits of regional zoning and to create a fair way to distribute the benefits and expenses of economic development and land use decisions made by the 14 Meadowlands District towns.
Currently seven municipalities pay into the system while the others receive money. Under Prieto's plan, no town would pay into the fund. The program would instead be paid for through an additional 3 percent hotel use tax collected on all hotel room occupancies in the 14 towns.
Prieto said he drafted his bill with one eye on the future as momentum seems to be growing to allow casinos outside of Atlantic City.
"My bill, taken as an entire plan dovetails directly into potentially having gaming in the north," Prieto explained. "This is something that would be ideal to make sure that we attract people here."
There are 8,000 hotel rooms in the area and they have 90 percent occupancy rates year round and the additional tax revenue could be used to beautify the region and improve its infrastructure Prieto said.