What happens when State House hearing turns into shouting match? Nothing good

By Tom Bracken, N.J. Chamber of Commerce
Trenton | Nov 20, 2019 at 4:05 am
Op-Ed

On Monday, protesters in Trenton disrupted the state Senate committee hearing on New Jersey’s tax incentive programs.

Everyone has the right to protest and to be heard. It is important that we respect those rights.

But it is equally important that we ask this question — how is our state perceived by the out-of-state executives we are trying to convince to bring their businesses here?

These executives, who are evaluating New Jersey as a place to do business, are already aware of our challenging business environment and, if these executives were watching Monday, the images from the tax incentive hearings did not help our state’s cause.

At a time when we should be collectively putting our best foot forward to celebrate and advocate for the great opportunities New Jersey can offer businesses, we do just the opposite.

We fall into the Trenton trap — bickering and infighting instead of rational discourse, and gamesmanship instead of genuine problem solving.

The hearing Monday was described by NJ.com as “raucous and angry.” Demonstrators disrupted the proceedings by shouting slogans and clapping hands.

Unfortunately, the most-viewed image that emerged from news coverage of the hearing was the state police forcibly removing one of the protesters.

You can bet these out-of-state business decision makers took notice.

Nothing can get done in an environment where people are screaming at those with whom they disagree and vilifying those with different opinions.

Too frequently, the business community is the target of these villifications.

This, of course, is ironic since the business community is a significant source of the revenue needed to fund the fairer economy and generate the job opportunities everyone wants to see.

For the sake of New Jersey, we all need to stop focusing on our narrow self-interests — we have let that go too far. We must stop the name-calling, tone down the rhetoric and engage in a respectful and civil discussion about how to bridge our disagreements and solve the many problems that are holding back significant economic progress.

We need solutions, not more destructive bickering.

Not only will we get a lot more done, we will make a much better impression on those out-of-state executives we need to bring their companies and their jobs to New Jersey.

Our state deserves much better than the display Monday.

Tom Bracken is CEO and president of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, based in Trenton.

ROI-NJ Staff | editorial@roi-nj.com | @ROINJNews