From the Record:
Meadowlands Xanadu developers, after more than a year of looking for new investors, may soon add an important new partner: you, the state taxpayer.
Three sources familiar with a proposal under serious consideration by the Christie administration said that taxpayers — via a provision of the state’s Economic Stimulus Act of 2009 — could, in effect, invest about $180 million in the long-stalled project. That money would come in the form of an annual diversion to the developers of 75 percent of the state sales tax revenue generated by the project after it finally opens — for as long as 20 years, or until the $180 million cap is reached.
That figure is based on an estimate of $900 million in additional capital needed to finish off a 2-million-square-foot retail and entertainment project on which developers already have spent about $2 billion.
The plan is likely to draw heavy fire both from conservatives and liberals, who may consider the incentive program as “corporate welfare.” But the law creating the incentive was sponsored by state Sen. Ray Lesniak, D-Union, and signed by Gov. Jon Corzine, a Democrat, last summer. An amended version of the law that Lesniak said prevents voter referendums for projects linked to state economic stimulus programs — such as the Xanadu proposal — was signed into law by Governor Christie, a Republican, in May.
“If some help doesn’t come quickly, that project will be dead,” Lesniak said. “We don’t need white elephants around that generate no revenue and no jobs. When we signed this bill into law, I said it would be the most powerful economic development tool anywhere. This [use of the EDA program for Xanadu] would be proof of that.”