‘We have to put partisanship aside, because nobody wants N.J. to fail’

Bipartisan legislators honored by chamber state the obvious: Government and business must work together

On a night he was one of seven people honored by the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce for his efforts to help the business community, State Sen. Mike Testa essentially said it takes a village to build an economy.

Or, at least, a bipartisan effort.

“I want to congratulate everybody who’s being honored this evening,” Testa (R-Cape May Court House) said. “It obviously shows that we can work together in a bipartisan manner for the betterment of New Jersey.

“At the end of the day, we have to put partisanship aside, because nobody wants New Jersey to fail. We’re all here because we want New Jersey to win.”

Testa was one of five legislators honored as a Legislator of the Year at the state chamber’s Legislative and Business Awards Reception at Bell Works in Holmdel.

His fellow legislative honorees shared similar thoughts.

Bill Hagaman of Withum, one of the honorees.

Assemblyman Roy Freiman (D-Hillsborough) said government needs to assist business, not restrict it.

“The government role needs to be just enabling business to be prosperous, and the rest of New Jersey, prosperous as well,” he said.

Assemblyman Chris DePhillips (D-Midland Park) agreed — saying government can do that by cutting taxes.

“As a legislator, I’m going to always stand with the chamber on policies that will reduce taxes in the state,” he said. “Cut state spending in our ever-increasing state budget, cut our corporate business tax, which by the way, is the second-largest and the second-highest in the nation, improve our business climate so jobs and job creators can stay in this state and assist our businesses and our workforce in recovering from the economic devastation caused by COVID.”

State Sens. Vin Gopal (D-Ocean Twp.) and Teresa Ruiz (D-Newark) thanked the chamber for its efforts.

Gopal saluted CEO Tom Bracken for his advocacy for the business community.

“He stands strong on what he believes, and he’s always respectful,” he said. “Sometimes, he takes on the governor, but he does it with respect and he does it with decency. We need more … organizations like that.”

Ruiz thanked the chamber for being more about just business.

“Thank you for making New Jersey work,” she said. “The chamber really has broadened its horizon. It’s not just about a corporate sector. It’s about understanding that, in our next phase of work, you must have a great workforce, and that we must unite together to be sure that New Jersey continues to work on behalf of our 21 counties.”

Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli, with the state chamber’s Michael Egenton, left, and Tom Bracken.

Bill Hagaman, the CEO and managing partner at Withum, said the business community is eager to do its part to help the state, too — and in ways some may not realize. He saluted the legislators who were honored.

“You guys are doing stuff every day to move our state forward and to help the business community,” he said. “I definitely believe that some of programs that people think are progressive are really aligned with the business community: Health care, child care, education.

“I greatly appreciate all the efforts that are put forward there.”

The greatest show of appreciation came with the final honoree, Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli.

She was given a standing ovation by the gathering — and then quickly reminded everyone that nothing her department does is because of her and her alone.

She insisted her staff — about a half-dozen were in attendance — stand and be recognized with applause, too.

“I succeed because of them,” she said. “I am so proud of the work that they do every single day.”