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TRENTON-The primary focus of his state of the state address was the economy and making it better, but Gov. Jon Corzine yesterday also rolled out a couple of proposals that would directly impact developers and property taxpayers. But addressing the economy first, he told lawmakers that, “New Jerseyans are tough and resilient,” he said. “I truly believe that…as a state, our best days lie ahead. Getting New Jersey through the economic crisis is my priority number one, number two and number three.”

Of most interest to real estate developers was his proposal for a suspension of fees tied to development of affordable housing in the state. Under Council On Affordable Housing rules, communities–and by extension residential developers–are required to allot a certain percentage of new houses to the “affordable” category. Developers of non-residential projects are required to pay a fee to support affordable housing development.

“Recognizing the economic realities and pressures of the current economic environment, I am calling [on the COAH board] for a one-year moratorium on the 2.5% developer’s fee,” Corzine said. “I am additionally calling for exempting projects that were in the pipeline before the fee was instituted.”

He also called for tighter controls on property tax increases. “I’m sending ‘formal instruction’ to the Local Finance Board to firmly enforce the 4% levy cap in the coming year,” Corzine said. “Last year, we saw 80% of reporting municipalities come in over the cap. In fact, 30% came in with increases of 10% or more. We need to reverse this pattern.”

Open space preservation in this land-constricted state was also a topic of discussion. “It’s a tough one, not because we don’t want it, but because it’s a tough financing issue,” Corzine said. “Open space preservation has always been one of New Jersey’s priorities, which it should be. It is my preferred approach that we put in place a long-term funding solution. We need, at minimum, an interim-bonding question for November’s ballot to extend the financing that voters approved in 2007.”

Corzine did reflect on two ongoing initiatives that he hopes will pave the way for an economic rebound. “We are creating jobs by accelerating public investments in roads, bridges, school construction and the new mass transit tunnel under the Hudson River,” he said. “In the next year alone, we’re committing, and this is before any federal infrastructure program, $4.7 billion in high-return investments, savings or creating as many as 42,000 jobs. And I fought to authorize $3.9 billion in new school construction funds, money that can be leveraged into $5.4 billion in investments across the state.”

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