A question worth debating: Will business climate in N.J. come up tonight?

Murphy-Ciattarelli barely brushed on business community in 1st debate; here’s what they might say in 2nd effort

We’re not sure if questions about the business climate will come up Tuesday night at Rowan University, during the second — and final — gubernatorial debate between Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy and his Republican challenger, Jack Ciattarelli.

But we’re pretty sure what they will say if it does.

Murphy undoubtedly will tout his recent successes. Just this fall, the state has landed a commitment from Fortune 500 company Fiserv to consolidate an office in Berkeley Heights that will bring at least 2,000 new jobs to the state.

And the state also won big when HAX, the global accelerator run by SOSV, announced it will move its global hub to Newark, where it intends to help support and develop at least 100 hard-tech companies.

Murphy will say both are examples that his plan to create an innovative economy is on track — and his new incentive programs are doing what they need to do.

“New Jersey’s economic future rests with our ability to attract exactly the kind of high-paying jobs that Fiserv is bringing to our state,” Murphy said at the time. “Our incentive program, which was several years in the making, was created to attract exactly this type of business to New Jersey, and this announcement is proof those incentives are working.”

Ciattarelli would answer back that all these successes can’t hide the fact that the state is near the bottom in many surveys calculating business climate. The former assemblyman will argue that his proposals would help the state be competitive with any state anywhere. And that all companies — and all residents — would benefit as a result.

Ciattarelli said as much last week during a stump speech Friday at the annual State of the State of Health Care event put on by the New Jersey Association of Health Underwriters. He repeated his often-stated proposals:

  • Reduce the corporate business tax (the highest in the country) from 11% to 5% over a six-year period;
  • Make the first $50,000 of business income tax free;
  • Eliminate the tax on the sale of family-owned businesses;
  • Make the gain on the sale of an IPO tax-free if the company is headquartered in New Jersey.

To steal a line, Ciattarelli said this is a fairer proposal.

“Let’s get out of the business of the EDA giving out corporate tax credits to the winners,” he said. “Why can’t we create tax policy that all businesses benefit from?”

Ciattarelli said his proposals would signal that New Jersey is ready to battle anyone for businesses.

“I don’t just want to be reasonably competitive; I want to declare economic warfare on our neighbors,” he said. “We can do this. We should all want a better business environment in New Jersey, and it can be done.”