Legislation previously vetoed by Governor Chris Christie but re-introduced by Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver to establish the Back to Work NJ program to create jobs and economic growth by allowing unemployed New Jerseyans to get on-the-job training from potential employers was approved yesterday by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

The measure was released 8-4, with Democrats supporting and Republicans opposed. Oliver says "Gov. Christie and Republicans still have the time to do the right thing by joining Democrats in helping out-of-work New Jerseyans……..This is an innovative program that will allow out-of-work New Jerseyans to develop the skills to stay in the workforce even in the face of unemployment. It's what we need to tackle this recession and help workers and businesses alike to jumpstart our economy and move our state forward."

The initiative would cost $3 million and last week, Christie said he was opposed to spending money through supplemental appropriations because they increase the size of the State Budget.

John McKeon, Deputy Speaker of the Assembly and a member of the appropriations panel says, "Hopefully the Governor and his colleagues on the legislative side will have an epiphany understanding how important this is for New Jerseyans……I respect the Governor and his philosophies, but sometimes those philosophies play better for a national audience than they do for what's right for New Jersey."

"If they want to come forward with these bills let's sit down, let's talk about it, let's see what we can agree to," said the Governor last week. "If the Speaker wants to do this kind of thing, I've heard them talk a lot in the last two weeks about communication, and how they're going to assert themselves. Well great! I'm happy to have them assert themselves, but it's a two-way street. Because remember what the equation is. Never forget the equation in Trenton for getting something done. It is 41 and 21, that's absolutely true. And one. And you're looking at the one."

Oliver's legislation is based on the successful Georgia Work$ program. According to statistics compiled by the Georgia Department of Labor, 10,589 people participated in Georgia Works from February 2003 until January 2010. Of that number, 6,105 completed training and 3,363 were hired either during or at the end of their training. An additional 1,170 people found work within 90 days of completing training.

The bill permits an eligible laid off worker to continue receiving unemployment insurance benefits while placed in on-the-job training with an eligible employer for a maximum of 24 hours per week for up to six weeks. It also provides each trainee up to $100 per week to help defray training-related costs, including transportation, clothing and child care. The program is voluntary for both laid off workers and employers. The measure also requires the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development to monitor eligible participants and eligible employers who participate to ascertain whether the training provided by the program complies with the requirements. If the department determines that an employer has a repeated pattern of using eligible participants as unpaid labor without hiring them as employees, or otherwise fails to comply with the requirements, the department may impose penalties and shall disqualify the employer from further participation.

Legislation Assembly Democrats Al Coutinho, Dan Benson, Troy Singleton, Herb Conaway and Wayne DeAngelo sponsored to create jobs and economic development to combat New Jersey's continued high unemployment rate was also advanced Thursday by the appropriations panel.

The bills build upon Democratic job creation efforts and would: establish the Grow New Jersey Assistance Program tax credit incentive for New Jersey-based companies that retain and create new jobs and create a loan program within the New Jersey Economic Development Authority to help small businesses expand.

Under the new tax credit program, a business will receive a tax credit for making a minimum $20 million capital investment in a business facility and creating or retaining at least 100 full-time positions in a qualified area, but only if the project yields a positive fiscal net benefit to the state and if the business applies for the credit before July 1, 2014.

The other bill would require the EDA to establish a small business loan program offering low interest loans of up to $250,000 to eligible small businesses for purposes that increase total employment. Generally, the interest rate on the loans would be 2 percent; if the loan results in a greater increase in employment or the target increase is met more quickly, the authority could allow the rate to fall below 2 percent.

Video by Dino Flammia