In his January 10 state address, Gov. Phil Murphy touted the Garden State as a national model of possibility and opportunity and laid out a vision for shaping “the next New Jersey.” “New Jersey is a place where opportunity lives, education is valued, justice is accepted, compassion is the norm, and the American dream is alive and well,” Murphy said. “We’ve done a lot to make New Jersey the best state in the nation to live, work and raise a family, but we can do better.”
Business leaders across the state generally praised the governor’s tone and the direction he seemed to be taking.
Tom Bracken, president and CEO of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, said in response to Murphy’s speech, “The best advertising we can have to attract business to the state is “From a business standpoint, there’s no better way to present a good image than when your customers are in a good place. Customers in New Jersey are businesses right here.”
Bracken said it was an upbeat speech he believed New Jersey needed and was “very appropriate.”
“We hope to start a trend of cheerleading more than ever before, and that will help us move forward as a state,” he added. It’s not where we want to be.There is so much more that we can do to create a better business environment and create a better economy, and the better attitude we have, the more likely we are to make progress. ”
“As Gov. Murphy enters his second year in office, we recognize and appreciate the recent steps taken to improve the business environment in New Jersey,” said Michele Seekerka, President and CEO of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association. The CEO said in response to the state situation. state address. “Specifically, last week’s signing of Bill A573 to expedite construction inspections and last month’s signing of Bill A4929 provided flexibility to New Jersey’s economic incentive requirements related to remote work. It was much needed and welcomed by the business world.”
Siekerka also referenced Netflix’s recent announcement to build a new production facility in Fort Monmouth.
“These initiatives will provide the state with tax revenue, permanent and temporary jobs, and vital economic activity,” Siekerka said.
“Besides the fact that I’m a little optimistic about some of the recent announcements and some of the recently passed legislation, it’s a positive message trying to improve our image. That whole situation sounds very good to me. It fits,” Bracken explained. “We are not there yet. We have a long way to go.
In his speech, Murphy highlighted a number of administration achievements, recently enacted initiatives, and plans for 2023 and beyond.NJBIZ documented many of these items in a full article last week. Topping the list of new announcements is the extension of the application deadline for the ANCHOR property tax program, reform of the state’s outdated liquor licensing laws, and the creation of a new Boardwalk Fund to help coastal towns and cities. bottom.
Among the achievements he highlighted were a 31st consecutive month of job growth, a drop in the unemployment rate to 3.4%, a strong increase in gross domestic product in the third quarter, an increase in the minimum wage, and the completion of major infrastructure projects. promotion, and the state’s recent credit rating upgrade. .
Much of the speech focused on the state’s continued efforts to build emerging sectors such as film and television, sports betting, legal cannabis, fintech, and offshore wind, and the state’s growth in life sciences and manufacturing. It was also focused on regaining its historic status.
“And we’ve passed many of the so-called ‘business-friendly’ states. Some states argue that we must follow suit. States such as Georgia and Florida. Our clear record of success outperforms states that pay huge tax cuts to the richest and most powerful by taking investment away from public education and civic programs. We’re proving that we can put our ideas into practice, improve our lives, and compete with anyone at any time. But more than that, these states aren’t leaders in emerging industries.
Murphy said he was proud of the new sectors that have brought investment to Garden State by big companies, but said the state’s economy relies even more heavily on small businesses and the health and vitality of downtown. admitted.
“A movie set in our wonderful historic downtown is great. You know what you’re doing,” says Murphy. “Our downtown was devastated during the pandemic, but we are committed to putting them back together completely. Over $100 million in support has helped us navigate the ongoing recovery. Together, the budget we passed has sustained our $50 million investment in the Main Street Reconstruction Program. .”
The business community certainly welcomed this recognition for small businesses and downtown areas, but they want more help.
“I am confident the administration can and should do more to address affordability for small businesses in New Jersey,” Siekerka said. In NJBIA’s 2023 Business Outlook Survey, 82% of businesses said New Jersey was somewhat out of reach for businesses or not at all. It reflects what our business advocates peers hear literally every day.”
Siekerka added that while business grants are highly valued, they don’t compare to the more comprehensive and well-deserved relief to help the overburdened small business community.
Bracken expressed cautious optimism about what he heard from Murphy. , I think the fact that he admits it is a good sign that some of the things we’re considering may be addressed.
The overall business response is basically that in creating the “next Jersey” to attract new business, policymakers are dealing with numerous challenges and costs, not forgetting the businesses already here. Among the items of contention between Murphy and the business community are the lingering unemployment insurance trust fund issue, the need for more assistance to undercapitalized businesses, and, of course, taxes.
Siekerka noted that unlike many other states, New Jersey is not using surplus COVID funds to replenish the UI Trust Fund. “This billion-dollar business unemployment tax hike is a tax on jobs and the result of the longest pandemic shutdown in the country, with businesses in New Jersey earning more jobs per employee per year than before. It’s costing us a hundred dollars more to the pandemic,” Siekerka said. “Similarly, we’ve heard a lot about the ANCHOR property tax relief in today’s governor’s speech, so much so that New Jersey businesses, even though they pay almost half of the state’s property taxes, are getting that support. It should be noted again that it has been excluded from
Two other lingering issues provoked notable reactions after the speech. First, Murphy didn’t go into too much detail about the potential authority to electrify buildings in the state while discussing the administration’s clean energy efforts.
Eric DeGuessero, executive vice president of the New Jersey Fuel Merchants Association, said in a statement, “He is trying to explain the devastating, costly and intrusive policy that would require all buildings in the state to have electric heating. “This lack of candor today about the most radical transformation of the state’s energy, environmental, housing, and economic policies in New Jersey history hurts his quiet streak on building electrification.” Gov. Murphy is putting your money out of his mouth.”
Another issue that remains unresolved at the local and county level is the surge in state health insurance premiums.
“As most local governments in New Jersey are in the process of preparing their budgets for 2023, municipalities participating in the State Health Benefit Program (SHBP) are encouraged to participate in the State Health Benefit Program (SHBP). We have yet to agree on additional state revenue to reduce the staggering 22% increase facing local governments facing SHBP,” the New Jersey Federation of Local Governments said in a statement. “Discussions are ongoing, but we need to resolve this issue as soon as possible to minimize budget and revenue issues.”
This is the first in-person speech since 2020 and the state’s immediate aftermath to set the stage for its next budget speech in just a few weeks.
“We’ve always swaggered. In the past, it was a line of defense against all sorts of disrespect and jokes. But no longer,” Murphy said. “It’s okay to admit it. It’s cool to be from New Jersey again. It’s cool because we’re leading the way in doing all that’s right again. , respect human dignity, attract tomorrow’s high-growth industries, and provide world-class education and high-paying, family-supporting job opportunities for every individual in every community.”
“And because in 2026 we can host the World Cup,” Murphy added.
Bracken believes that the Pride of Jersey theme of Murphy’s speech, his acknowledgment of the struggling small business community in particular, combined with recent announcements and legislation, makes progress possible.
“We need to pick up from yesterday and go in the same direction,” Bracken said.