Kim Guadagno was a little-known former prosecutor and county sheriff when she became New Jersey’s first lieutenant governor. Economic development was not something she knew much about. But former Gov. Chris Christie immediately put her in charge of boosting the state’s businesses, cutting red tape and growing New Jersey’s economy.
And Guadagno threw herself into the task. She traveled tirelessly, focusing on luring new businesses and helping existing businesses thrive. She helped create the Partnership for Action and Choose New Jersey, which worked closely with the state Economic Development Authority to promote job creation and retention and boost economic growth. She made streamlining regulations a major focus. And the business community is sorry to see her go.
“As @KimGuadagnoNJ term comes to an end, I want to thank and congratulate her for her service to the Garden State. She was a true fighter for residents and businesses in NJ. I’m glad to have been able to see her in action,” Pohatcong Township Mayor James R. Kern III tweeted.
As @KimGuadagnoNJ term comes to an end, I want to thank and congratulate her for her service to the Garden State. She was a true fighter for residents and businesses in NJ. I’m glad to have been able to see her in action. All the best LG! pic.twitter.com/WD1lLNjzXF
— James Kern III (@JamesRKernIII) January 15, 2018
Government affairs expert Robert Geist tweeted to Guadagno: “Thank you for always remembering those of us below 195. You were a champion for South Jersey biz, our industries and communities. All the best to you and your family and thank them for loaning us you for 8 years.”
Thank you for always remembering those of us below 195. You were a champion for South Jersey biz, our industries and communities. All the best to you and your family and thank them for loaning us you for 8 years.
— Robert Geist (@RobertGeist) January 16, 2018
Guadagno may have lost the race for governor to Phil Murphy, but for eight years she was the Christie administration’s No. 1 liaison to the business community, and the undeniable champion of the state’s businesses.
And, now, the question is: Who will play that role in Murphy’s administration?
The new governor is a Goldman Sachs alum and had a career in finance. He is certainly no dummy when it comes to economic issues. But he doesn’t seem likely to take up the kind of retail, nuts-and-bolts economic development work that was Guadagno’s core mission.
Indeed, Murphy has criticized some of Guadagno’s work on behalf of the state’s businesses, particularly the $8 billion in tax incentives provided by the EDA under Christie and Guadagno.
Murphy has pledged instead to build a “stronger and fairer” economy by focusing more on the middle class, and there is nothing wrong with that. But several of his proposals — a $15 minimum wage, legalizing marijuana, higher taxes on the wealthy — have raised concerns in the business community.
And there is no immediately obvious person in Murphy’s fledgling administration to take over Guadagno’s former role. (Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver is taking on a different job, as commissioner of the state Department of Community Affairs.) How about this? Appoint Guadagno the state’s “business czar” and let her keep up the good work?
Yeah, we know. Not likely to happen.
But, Gov. Murphy, think of the positive press you would get by giving your former Republican opponent a key role. With Democrats now in control of the Legislature and the Governor’s Office, that kind of bipartisan move would be welcomed by many. And it would give you instant cred with the members of the business community who might be a little worried right now.