Issues affecting New Jersey’s business community were not a central theme Tuesday night during the first gubernatorial debate.
In fact, business issues were barely mentioned at all.
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None of the four moderators posed a business-based question to either Gov. Phil Murphy or Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli, with only Ciattarelli addressing it briefly during his one-minute closing remarks, saying he’ll “create more jobs by fixing our tax code to make New Jersey the most competitive and attractive place to do business, particularly for small business.”
After the event, Ciattarelli more specifically discussed his plans during the short post-debate news conference — plans he has announced previously.
“If you go to my website, it has a very specific plan, because I’m all about specifics,” he said — before rattling off three specifics:
- Adopt Delaware’s bylaws for corporate governance;
- Cut the corporate tax rate in half over a five-year period;
- Make the first $50,000 of business income be tax-free.
“I don’t just want to compete. I want to declare economic war on our neighbors,” he said. “Right now. Pennsylvania, Delaware, the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, Texas are eating our lunch.”
Ciattarelli, reaching for a debate quote that would hit home for all, talked about Nabisco’s recent decision to leave the state.
“For the first time in 63 years, Oreo cookies won’t be made in New Jersey,” he said.
Murphy was not asked about business issues during his post-event time.
And, while Ciattarelli was correct on Nabisco, the governor has been on an economic development roll in recent weeks.
HAX, a hard-tech accelerator run by one of the most active venture capital firms in the world, announced earlier this month that it is establishing its U.S. headquarters in Newark — and bringing with it a commitment to develop 100 companies in the city over the next five years.
And Wednesday, the board of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority is expected to approve an incentive award that will help Fiserv, a Fortune 500 company, bring 3,000 jobs to a location in Berkeley Heights.
The debate, the first of two between the candidates, was held at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark before a crowd of approximately 500.