As the COVID-19 vaccines continue to be integrated into our daily lives, one can sense the optimism people are feeling that the end of the pandemic is near.
The focus will soon shift to what a post-pandemic world will look like, especially on the economic front. If you talk to any business owner, he or she will say that 2020 was a year no one will soon forget. In addition to the health care crisis, many faced an economic crisis. Yes, the federal and state stimulus programs helped by giving businesses a lifeline to weather the storm of uncertainty, but now we must begin to plan for our long-term recovery.
With President Joe Biden signing the American Rescue Plan into law, New Jersey is poised to receive an additional $10 billion in federal assistance. When you add the $24 billion New Jersey received from the CARES Act last year, the numbers are staggering. It is also important to note New Jersey has yet to spend about $4 billion of the CARES Act monies received. Now, more than ever, Trenton needs to show our residents and businesses that the money will be used to bolster our recovery and set us on a path to prosperity and sustainability for all our residents. There should be zero tolerance when it comes to waste and inefficiencies. Transparency and accountability should be the words of the day and should be woven into the thinking of everyone involved.
This money should relieve the pressure our residents and businesses feel in meeting the revenue goals set by the state, counties and municipalities. Our Trenton lawmakers need to reevaluate and pare down the $44.8 billion budget Gov. Phil Murphy proposed in February, which is predicated on tax revenue models which may or may not be realized. In addition to raising the corporate business tax and implementing a new tax on millionaires, New Jersey borrowed $4.5 billion to balance this year’s budget. The FY22 budget calls for a $2.1 billion surplus. Fiscal prudence and responsibility are needed now more than ever.
Trenton must hold the line on spending, new taxes and fees and allow the markets to determine what a post-pandemic economy looks like by not imposing new mandates on our businesses. Let our businesses operate in a free-market economy that has been the foundation of our financial systems. We need to make New Jersey competitive by being a leader in fiscal prudence. We should embrace the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship by treating our businesses as partners and investors. As our businesses prosper, so will New Jersey. Now is the time to make a difference.
Anthony Russo is the president of the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey.