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TRENTON – Senator Raymond Lesniak and Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Cryan joined their districtmate Assemblywoman Annette Quijano Tuesday in opposing the imminent dismantling of the state’s Urban Enterprise Zone (UEZ) program under Gov. Christie’s proposed FY 2012 budget.

The 20th Legislative District is home to the UEZ municipalities of Elizabeth, Hillside, and Roselle, which house hundreds of participating small businesses, many of which are minority owned.

“It is important to review all state programs to ensure the efficient and most productive use of taxpayer dollars” said Lesniak. “But instead of just ending UEZs altogether, we should be working on a plan to update the program to make it more mutually beneficial to the state and to the participating municipalities. There is no reason to cut the program entirely, and doing so will cause economic harm to cities like Elizabeth, where the program is working as intended. This is the perfect example of a budget situation where the Governor should be using a scalpel instead of an axe.”

“For a governor who says he supports job growth and economic expansion, eliminating the UEZ program is a huge step in the opposite direction,” noted Cryan. “UEZs have clearly been effective in promoting business ownership among minorities. Terminating that opportunity would be a major setback for New Jersey’s continued urban revitalization and economic recovery.”

“Once again, this is a situation where we see the governor making cuts for the sake of balancing the budget, without examining the long term ramifications of those cuts,” added Quijano. “We need more legislators to stand with us and let the governor know that he is wrong to cut funding for UEZs. Eliminating the program will not only wipe out success, like we are seeing in the 20th District, it will negatively impact the small business owners who rely on UEZ incentives and benefits to operate profitable, successful businesses across the state.”

In a press release earlier this month, Quijano detailed the disproportionate effect the program’s elimination will have on minority-owned businesses, which make up the bulk of business communities in UEZ municipalities. In Elizabeth, more than 33 percent of businesses are minority-owned, 43 percent of businesses in Hillside are minority-owned, and Roselle’s business community is 23 percent minority-owned. The statewide average for minority business ownership, on the other hand, is a meager 9 percent.