‘Shocking and disappointing’: Bracken opens ReNew Summit with honest talk on proposed budget

N.J. Chamber CEO also offers hope: ‘We can still achieve our goal of making the state a Top 10 destination for business’

The ReNew Jersey Business Summit & Expo was created as a forum to support all of the good there is in the state — and it has done that in its first two years.

But that doesn’t mean New Jersey Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Bracken isn’t going to tell it like it is.

In opening the third Summit on Tuesday morning in Atlantic City, Bracken addressed two key issues that are impacting the business community: Gov. Phil Murphy’s proposed 2025 budget — and the recently released disparity study.

Bracken told the crowd of approximately 900 that the proposed budget was “shocking and disappointing.”

“We recently got thrown a huge curveball with the governor’s proposed budget, which includes surprising, egregious and expensive new taxes — while simultaneously cutting the budgets of several state departments that have been extremely supportive to the business community,” he told the crowd.

“The proposed Corporate Transit Fee and ‘Buck a Truck’ tax are shocking and disappointing, and many of us are fighting aggressively to get both eliminated.

“We have been working hard to make the state more business friendly, attractive and competitive; and the aforementioned budget proposals absolutely work against those goals.”

Bracken also addressed the disparity study, which showed what everyone has known for decades: Minority- and woman-owned businesses have been dramatically short-changed when it comes to government contracts.

The impact is great, Bracken said.

“It casts a huge, negative perception on the state, and will require a thoughtful, diligent and committed plan to begin to bring equity to the diverse groups who have been affected,” he said.

Bracken — following the theme of the summit — also offered the potential for good.

“Adversity presents opportunity,” he said. “If an acceptable plan is put together — through the collective collaboration of all impacted groups — a huge negative will begin a positive path towards being corrected. This will significantly assist our goal of making our state more business-friendly.”

Bracken offered a caution.

“As we oppose, and as we try to correct, we absolutely need to do it with respectful dialogue,” he said.

Respectful dialogue. That’s the idea behind the summit, which runs through Wednesday.

“We can still achieve our goal of making the state a Top 10 destination for business,” he said.

“But the new hurdles will require us to work harder, be more unified in opposing the new taxes and more cohesive in promoting the benefits of choosing New Jersey as a place to call home.”