TRENTON, NJ - The New Jersey Assembly approved more than two dozen economic rescue bills Monday, part of lawmakers' focus on easing financial hardships facing Garden State residents and businesses.

The bills include aid for some homeowners facing foreclosure, a cash infusion to food pantries and more generous tax write-downs for businesses. Most have yet to be considered in the Senate.

"As we all know, this financial crisis is a global problem, but we're trying to help New Jersey emerge from the storm in a stronger position," said Assembly Democratic Leader Bonnie Watson Coleman, who sponsored some of the measures. "Our focus means were positioned to swiftly help hardworking New Jerseyans and the businesses that employ them."

The Assembly has spent much of the month debating legislation that could lessen the impact of the global financial crisis on New Jerseyans.

The proposals approved Monday range from help for the most needy to promoting clean energy and the green jobs that come with it.

One bill would provide help for some residents facing foreclosure. It would waive the realty transfer fee for nonprofits that work with banks to buy a property from a struggling homeowner then lease it back to the homeowner at an affordable rent. The goal is to sell the property back to the homeowner within seven years.

Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande, R-Monmouth, said she supported helping families facing foreclosure, but said this bill only aids 1,000 or so homeowners "lucky enough" to participate in the program.

"There are thousands of families out there who are struggling who are not going to be captured by this tax break," she said.

Recent statistics show New Jersey home foreclosures are outpacing the national average.

In September, one in every 453 homes in New Jersey was in some stage of foreclosure, according to the real estate tracking service RealtyTrac. The New Jersey foreclosure rate was up 95 percent from a year ago for the three months ending Sept. 30.

Also approved by the Assembly on Monday:
- A $50 million appropriation to the Economic Development Authority for the Main Street program, which promotes revitalization of downtown business districts by stimulating community investment.
- A $10 million appropriation for utility bill assistance, $3 million for food banks and $9.5 million for legal aid assistance with foreclosures and other financial matters.
- Extending the length of time businesses could write down net operating losses to 20 years, from the current seven.

Senate President Richard Codey applauded passage of the pro-business measure, which the Senate has already passed.

"With many businesses struggling and others facing still unforeseen losses, we need to do all we can to help them weather the storm," Codey said.

That bill now heads to the governor for a signature.

Republican Assemblyman Jon Bramnick said Monday other business-friendly proposals would soon be introduced, based on suggestions during a recent Policy Committee hearing.
Among them:
- Abolish the 1 percent tax on commercial use property valued at more than $1 million, which sponsors say hurts business recruitment into New Jersey.
- Postpone implementation of paid family leave, which sponsors say is not timely due to the poor economic climate facing businesses. The paid leave law, allowing workers to take time off with pay to care for a newborn or sick relative, is scheduled to take effect July 1, 2009.
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(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)