Plainfielders can no longer pay just half the state sales tax on purchases in the city's Urban Enterprise Zone, but Mayor Adrian O. Mapp said Wednesday he and mayors of four other affected cities will urge Gov. Chris Christie to extend the UEZ perk, retroactive to its Dec. 31 expiration date.
Shoppers at certified UEZ retailers had been charged only 3.5 percent sales tax instead of 7 percent. The Urban Enterprise Zone Authority held the sales tax in a fund that could be tapped for improvements within the zone. In 2011, a report found the UEZ program was returning only eight cents per dollar of state investment and recommended a shutdown, though the lower sales tax would be preserved. Eventually the balance of funds in Plainfield's account was returned to the city to manage.
Now, as reported by 101.5, the sales tax has been lowered statewide to 6.875 percent, but there is no longer a reduced sales tax in Plainfield and four other cities (Bridgeton, Camden, Newark, Trenton)..
Mapp reviewed the changes at Wednesday's meeting of the Plainfield Democratic City Committee, saying Christie had vetoed a 10-year extension of the program for the five cities and wanted a study on whether the UEZ program was still needed. Christie can still sign other legislation for a shorter-term extension and Mapp said he drafted a letter, signed by all five mayors, to urge Christie to do so.
Two of Plainfield's former high generators of sales tax revenues, Appliance-Arama and Macy's, have closed, but several approved projects within the UEZ include commercial development. Mapp called the reduced sales tax a needed "enticement" for business in the affected cities.
One of the sticking points for certification has been a requirement to create employment, but many Plainfield businesses fall into the "mom and pop" category and can't hire more workers. For whatever reason, the 2011 study showed only 195 of 731 eligible businesses became certified.