Calling the program vital to job creation and economic growth, State Senator Jeff Van Drew recently said a proposal that would divert more than $90 million from the Urban Enterprise Zone Program in the FY 2012 budget would devastate UEZ communities that rely on the funding to spur redevelopment and stimulate the local economy.

The Senator said he is planning to hold a hearing on the proposed diversion to hear from municipal and business officials as to the specific economic impact such a move would have on their communities.

“UEZ funds are critical to the survival of dozens of communities that rely on the program to spur redevelopment and fuel economic growth,” said Senator Van Drew (D-Cape May/Cumberland/Atlantic). “Ending the UEZ program as we know it would absolutely devastate municipalities that are still struggling to recover from the economic recession.”

The proposed budget would divert $93.9 million in revenue from the program, essentially ending the program as it was established in 1983. According to budget documents, the proposal would apply to the General Fund any tax revenue collected in UEZ’s which has historically gone to support economic development projects in urban areas.

“I have always been willing to work with the governor, and on a large number of issues, we agree. But I strongly disagree with any proposal which would essentially terminate the UEZ program, which has been a major economic generator for this state,” said Senator Van Drew, chair of the Community and Urban Affairs Committee and a member of the Budget and Appropriations Committee. “This program is critical to the economies of so many municipalities in this state, from Vineland, Millville and the Wildwoods, to Elizabeth and Jersey City – all of which have repeatedly demonstrated how funding recycled back into the community can create economic benefits for years to come.”

From the initial 10 UEZs that were designated in 1984, the program has grown to 32 zones in 37 municipalities throughout the state, according to information from the Department of Community Affairs. More than 1,800 full-time jobs and 790 part-time positions have been created in Millville’s Urban Enterprise Zone since the program’s inception. In Vineland, the UEZ program has helped create more than 5,000 jobs, and in Elizabeth and Jersey City, it has been the catalyst for billions of dollars in private investment.