Business group leaders apprehensive about budget: Siekerka says, ‘This is all a big ask of business’

Bracken: ‘We’ve got to work on the stronger part — and if the stronger part isn’t accomplished, the fairer part doesn’t have a chance’

By Anjalee Khemlani and Tom Bergeron
Trenton | Jul 1, 2018 at 11:46 am

The heads of the state’s largest business groups aren’t sold on the last-minute budget Gov. Phil Murphy and legislative leaders agreed to Saturday night.

New Jersey Business & Industry Association CEO and President Michele Siekerka said the silver lining was that the state didn’t shut down.

But the business community is far from relieved.

“We should absolutely recognize that this is not being done in a silo, because New Jersey business is being hit with new mandates, through recent legislation, such as paid sick leave, new energy costs — to the tune of a few billion dollars — while business also faces down the future of a $15 minimum wage. This is all a big ask of business,” she said. “New Jersey businesses have been paying their fair share. This is a budget that is on the backs of New Jersey businesses.”

Siekerka added that the millionaire’s tax also affects small businesses in New Jersey, and, while the corporate business tax increase isn’t enough to see a mass outmigration from the state, it will stagnate growth of businesses and jobs as a result.

But, she said, the business community has been promised tax reform in return.

File photo
New Jersey Chamber of Commerce CEO and President Tom Bracken.

“Our ask is that, come Monday morning, you need to start that reform,” Siekerka said. “We need to see it being actively discussed. We need to know there is an end in sight for New Jersey business. The ask is that we need to discuss how we fund schools through local property taxes, which is the highest in the nation, and we need to look at pension and health care reform.”

Tom Bracken, the CEO and president of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, said he was disappointed about some of the aspects of the budget — but said it’s now necessary to move forward.

And do so in a more inclusive way.

“We can go back and rehash everything; that wouldn’t be productive,” he said. “We need to move forward. We’re going to emphasize what we’ve emphasized for a long time, which is an economic master plan.”

Bracken hopes this will be done with more than just a few people.

He feels everyone needs to be involved.

“We’ve got to regroup and get everybody on the same page, and I mean everybody,” he said. “This includes administration, Legislature, business, special interests, labor trade groups. Everybody has to be on the same page to get this moving forward.

“The fairer part of the economy has now been accomplished. We’ve got to work on the stronger part — and, if the stronger part isn’t accomplished, the fairer part doesn’t have a chance.”

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