Amazon tax credits, nuclear rescue are focus in lame duck
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Billions of dollars in tax credits to attract Amazon’s second headquarters to New Jersey and legislation to bail out nuclear power plants could take center stage at the Legislature’s final meeting before new lawmakers are sworn in and Republican Gov. Chris Christie leaves office.
The Democrat-led Assembly and Senate are holding Monday what is expected to be the final voting session of the current legislative session, which expires Tuesday. Lawmakers are also considering dozens of other bills
Christie has said he expects to enact the tax credit legislation as part of his final few weeks in office. Legislative lawmakers early signed a letter saying they would support the legislation.
The nuclear rescue bill’s fate looks less certain.
Senate President Steve Sweeney and the state’s biggest utility, PSE&G, which stands to benefit from the legislation, are pushing for its adoption. But Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto hasn’t committed to holding a vote on the measure, and Democratic Gov.-elect Phil Murphy’s spokesman said the new governor looks forward to working on the issue, suggesting it could get pushed until after Christie leaves office Jan. 16.
A closer look at the end of the lame-duck sessions:
AMAZON TAX CREDITS
Christie might get his wish to sign legislation authorizing up to $5 billion in tax credits to lure Amazon’s second headquarters. The bill seemed to be on hold after Sweeney said he wouldn’t post it for a vote unless Amazon said it would come to New Jersey. But Sweeney reversed himself and has scheduled the bill for a vote.
Christie and both Democratic and Republican legislative leaders committed to granting Amazon tax credits to attract its second headquarters. The Christie administration has picked Newark as its standard-bearer to host the project, but Camden and other cities in the state say they want to host the headquarters as well.
Amazon says it’s not expected to make any announcements in the near future.
Murphy has said he supports Amazon bringing its estimated 50,000 jobs to New Jersey, but stopped short of backing the tax credits explicitly.
Sweeney says he’s not giving up on getting the nuclear rescue bill done this session, but it’s hard to see how it could get to Christie’s desk if Prieto blocks it.
Under the proposed legislation, PSE&G says ratepayers could pay up to almost $31 annually. Another estimate from the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel, an independent advocate for consumers appointed by the governor, put the figure at closer to $41 a year.
The overall cost of the bill is estimated at about $300 million annually.
The financial rescue effort, which has been done in other states like New York and Illinois, has garnered significant opposition from consumer groups and environmental organizations.
The legislation establishes what it calls nuclear diversity certificate under the state’s utility regulator, the Board of Public Utilities.
Among the requirements under the legislation, nuclear plants would have to show they make a significant contribution to energy diversity in the state, turn over financial data showing that a particular plant faces closing and certify annually that the plant does not get other federal or regional subsidies or credits. Nuclear operators would also have to pay up to $250,000 for an application fee.
In return, the legislation would require the state’s electric utilities to pay nuclear power plants that receive the diversity certificates.
New Jersey has three nuclear facilities, two of which are operated by PSE&G. A third, Oyster Creek, is run by Exelon and slated to close in 2019.
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