A measure awaiting final legislative approval in the New Jersey Senate would extend for two years the Urban Enterprise Zones scheduled to expire in five cities on Jan. 1.

Continuing that program in Newark, Camden, Trenton, Plainfield, and Bridgeton would be a lifeline for those communities, said Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Atlantic.

"It will allow them, quite simply, to charge half the sales tax the way they always have done," he said Thursday. "These are distressed areas, and, if they weren't allowed to offer that reduced sales tax to their customers, they're certainly going to become more distressed."

Calling it failed experiment, Gov. Chris Christie last year vetoed extending the entire UEZ program for 10 years.

Van Drew said the new measure is a compromise that includes Christie's recommendation for reviewing the effectiveness of the program.

"Some UEZs are failed and don't work well and really became sort of repositories for patronage," Van Drew said. "Other UEZs worked very well and really helped the communities, where they put new facades on main streets that were falling apart, where they reinvigorated businesses, where they drew new businesses to the area."

Instead of going to the Urban Enterprise Zones, proceeds from their reduced-rate sales tax collections would go to the state's general fund.