The budget has been passed and the negotiations were dynamic. The end result will be very costly and extremely challenging for the business community. However, we must move forward. It is now time to do so with resolve, diligence and expediency.
Since his inauguration, Gov. Phil Murphy has been working to fulfill his pledge to create a “stronger and fairer” economy for New Jersey.
So far, he has had success on the “fairer” economy with, among others, the recently mandated paid sick leave and equal pay laws. On the horizon, we see a $15 minimum wage and an expansion of Paid Family Leave. The business community is paying more than its fair share of the costs associated with these initiatives and soon will be paying even more with the increase in the corporate business tax, the tax on deemed repatriated dividends, the combined reporting mandate and the multimillionaire’s tax reflected in the 2019 budget.
It is time now for the governor to focus on creating his “stronger” economy, because, without one, he cannot hope to sustain his “fairer” one.
Building a stronger economy will be extremely challenging. We have significant issues to address around New Jersey’s affordability and competitiveness, and the continuing migration of talent and wealth out of our state. The additional burdens placed on the business community with the new mandates and taxes only aggravate these issues.
It is time to get the administration, the Legislature, the business community, trade labor organizations and other interest groups on the same page with a common focus.
We need an Economic Master Plan for New Jersey.
First and foremost, this Economic Master Plan would be a specific and thoroughly thought-out blueprint of actions and achievable goals designed to keep everyone focused on growth, which is the holy grail of a strong economy — growth in business, growth in jobs and growth in revenue. This is the panacea to our current economic challenges.
The Economic Master Plan would help eliminate the state’s yearly need for short-term revenue boosts to close budget gaps and, hopefully, end the annual budget battles.
A well-developed Economic Master Plan would be an effective litmus test for state leaders when considering future legislation — for example, does a proposed piece of legislation support the master plan’s goals for growth?
The plan would also encompass a very thorough review of the cost of government at all levels and should take into account the final recommendations of the Economic and Fiscal Policy Workgroup as commissioned by Senate President Steve Sweeney.
Finally, a vibrant Economic Master Plan can be a central rallying point for the business community, advocacy groups and government agencies whose collective mission should be to help our state achieve its enormous potential. Currently, there is no such central point in New Jersey, and this has caused many good ideas and efforts to be diffused by a lack of coordination and support.
For an Economic Master Plan to work, we will need strong and focused leadership by Murphy, Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin. Each of them showed this leadership in the just-concluded budget process by demonstrating their willingness to compromise and involve people from outside of government to assist them in fashioning solutions to some technical aspects of the budget.
Also, all three of these leaders share the common goal of making New Jersey a more desirable destination to live and work.
I urge our state leaders to make it a top priority to bring together the talent, experience and diverse perspectives from across the state that would allow us to create a dynamic Economic Master Plan as soon as possible.
We need to change the way things are done in Trenton, and an Economic Master Plan can be the catalyst for that change.
This must be done if we are going to build the “stronger” economy we must have in order to support the “fairer” economy we all want.
Tom Bracken is the CEO and president and CEO of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce.