Pru Center ticket tax advances in Senate Panel backs charge of 5% to offset costs Tuesday, December 11, 2007 Legislation that would impose a new 5 percent tax on tickets for events at the Prudential Center in Newark won quick approval from a state Senate committee yesterday, while a separate measure to tax parking at the arena got sidetracked. The bills, designed to make arena patrons offset the estimated $5 million to $7 million a year Newark is projected to spend on security, traffic control and maintenance for events at the arena, were introduced just last month and will die unless passed by the end of the lame-duck Legislature on Jan. 8. "We have to provide the security we need without impacting the community we live in," said Sen. Ronald Rice (D-Essex) a former Newark deputy mayor and sponsor of the measures. Members of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee approved the 5 percent ticket surcharge (S-2971) but were unable to muster the eight votes needed to advance a second bill (S-2891) that would have let Newark impose a 7 percent surcharge on parking fees. That measure is scheduled to be considered again when the committee reconvenes Jan. 3. Newark Business Administrator Bo Kemp said city officials lobbied for the surcharges and are happy to see the legislation getting consideration. "It's very important, given the investment that the city has made, that the ongoing operation of the Newark arena is not carried on the backs of Newark taxpayers," said Kemp. But the arena's operators took a dim view of the special charges that would target their patrons. Dale Adams, general manager of the arena, said he is concerned the prospect of higher ticket and parking prices at the Prudential Center might drive promoters to other venues, like the Izod Center in the Meadowlands. "The problem is, it drives business away," said Adams. "They should try to lower the taxes and encourage the acts to play here instead of other states. Business will prosper." Rice's legislation exempts arenas operated by state authorities, such as the Meadowlands venues, from the new ticket surcharge. The parking surcharge would apply to parking lots used for special events after 6 p.m. on weeknights and anytime on weekends. As written, the surcharge would only be available to the cities of Newark, Elizabeth and Jersey City, which already tax parking fees. Parking lots at Newark Liberty International Airport would be exempt. Both measures would require authorization through a municipal ordinance. Jeff Vanderbeek, owner of the New Jersey Devils, the primary arena tenant, declined to comment on the pending legislation, saying he wants to get more information about it.