Opportunity NJ releases white paper on affordability

Opportunity NJ revealed its white paper on affordability Tuesday afternoon.

The paper, the result of meetings with hundreds of elected officials, business leaders, civic leaders and residents, talked of four key elements the group feels will help make New Jersey more affordable — and, thus, more competitive:

  • Tax reform and economic development;
  • Infrastructure improvement;
  • Workforce development and jobs; and
  • Regulatory and policymaking reform.

The organization is co-chaired by Tom Bracken, CEO and president of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, and Michele Siekerka, CEO and president of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association.

The group issued broader recommendations on the four key areas:

Tax reform and economic development: We must reform New Jersey’s tax structure to be fair, equitable and competitive with states within our region and those looking to attract our companies and our residents.

Infrastructure improvement: We must engage in comprehensive long-term infrastructure planning and investment across all critical infrastructure.

Workforce development and jobs: We must ensure that New Jersey’s current and future workers are workforce-ready with technical and employability skills being articulated throughout the education life cycle and beyond.

Regulatory and policymaking reform: We must ensure a policymaking process that targets responsible economic growth and removes unnecessary regulatory hurdles.

“Beginning right now, we are calling upon our policymakers, both current and those seeking to be elected on Nov. 7, 2017, to come together in order to establish a comprehensive strategic plan for responsible economic growth that will result in making New Jersey more affordable and more competitive,” Bracken and Sierkerka said in a release.

“New Jersey needs a long-term, sustainable plan, as opposed to simply operating year to year. New Jersey has a tremendous opportunity to leverage its best-in-class assets and create a strategic plan to move New Jersey forward on Jan. 1, 2018.”

Here’s a look at the white paper in greater depth:

  1. Tax reform and economic development

The statement: New Jersey residents cannot afford their property taxes.

The recommendations:

We must acknowledge and address the cost drivers for property tax, including:

  • Funding education equitably and with taxpayers in mind;
  • Too many levels, costs and services of government;
  • The current state pension crisis.

The statement: New Jersey businesses cannot afford taxes that are increasing the costs of doing business.

The recommendations:

  • We must not allow any new taxes without equitable tax fairness in exchange;
  • We must stimulate private investment to increase the tax base and lessen the current tax burden.

The statement: The state’s economic incentives should be retooled.

The recommendations:

  • We must provide more support to business incubators, and small/mid-market sectors;
  • We must cultivate micro-enterprises and entrepreneurial military veterans;
  • We must focus on job creation and private sector investment verses geographical location.
  1. Infrastructure improvement

The statement: We can no longer afford not to invest in transportation, water, power and sewerage, including maintenance/upgrades of existing infrastructure and new required projects.

The recommendation: We must establish a comprehensive infrastructure plan for the next 20 years.

The statement: We can no longer afford the maze of agencies and funding sources associated with infrastructure investment.

The recommendation: We must establish one fiscally responsible comprehensive funding source and constitutionally mandate its funding source.

The statement: We can no longer afford to have government alone make infrastructure investments.

The recommendation: We must embrace public-private partnership opportunities.

  1. Workforce development and jobs

The statement: We cannot afford to leave any New Jerseyan behind.

The recommendations:

  • We must emphasize skill-building among the state’s current workforce, especially among low-wage positions, in order to raise skills that will in turn raise salaries;
  • We must ensure collaboration among academia, business and government to advance workforce readiness;
  • We must establish a strategic plan for K-16 education so that the state resources are utilized in an efficient, effective and conscientiousness manner;
  • We must promote quality career and technical education opportunities that prepare students for careers as well as college.
  1. Regulatory and policymaking reform

The statement: We cannot afford policy and rulemaking that does not provide:

  • Ample opportunity for stakeholder input;
  • Economic analysis of cumulative impacts on job creation and regional competitiveness;
  • Standardized definitions, rules and regulations consistent with federal standards.


  • We must address regulatory issues in a comprehensive, holistic manner across different departments, agencies and levels of government;
  • We must streamline permitting, especially on projects that need multiple permits from multiple state agencies;
  • We must better utilize technology to make the permitting process more user friendly and less onerous.

The statement: We cannot afford new mandates on businesses that make New Jersey less competitive in attracting or retaining jobs, including mandates on wage-and-hour rules, benefits and health care.

The recommendations:

  • We must recognize that one-size-fits-all policies and regulations harm job creation and drive up the cost of doing business;
  • We must analyze all new regulation/policy/tax proposals through the lens of their impact on the state’s affordability and its competitiveness.

Bracken and Siekerka are determined to make sure this white paper has impact.

(READ MORE from ROI-NJ on the Affordability Summit.)

“What was made clear at our summit is we cannot afford anything less than an aggressive and urgent approach to making us more affordable and competitive,” they said. “We must better leverage our best-in-class assets and location. We can, and must, do better to give our businesses and residents a chance to thrive.

“We look forward to having constructive, nonpartisan dialogue with our state leadership for the good of our state. As the Rev. DeForest Soaries said at the Affordability Summit: ‘Solutions come to government, not from it.’

“This document is a starting point from which we will work with our leaders on solutions.”