Business leaders implore New Jersey lawmakers to focus on making the state more affordable

Business leaders implore New Jersey lawmakers to focus on making the state more affordable

December 30, 2021 0 By T.A. DeFeo

In the state legislature’s waning days, business leaders say lawmakers should focus on making New Jersey more affordable rather than pushing through legislation that may need to be rectified in the future.

That was the message expressed during a press conference earlier this month.

“Following a surprising Election Day where many of our legislators noted they heard the voters’ cry for affordability and that they were committed to answering that call, well, here we are some six weeks later, and we’re facing a constant flow of bills that, frankly, fly in the face of what’s been promised by our policymakers,” New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA) President and CEO Michele Siekerka said during a virtual press conference earlier this month.

“New Jersey still has the third-highest unemployment rate in the country. NJBIA’s business outlook survey showed concerns about how long small business owners want to keep their businesses, with almost two-thirds of those who were asked saying they will either exit earlier than predicted or right now were unsure how long they’ll continue their business,” Siekerka added. “We continue to experience an unprecedented hiring crisis. We still have the highest property, income and corporate business taxes in the nation, and COVID continues to bring more uncertainty as to what the working environment will look like for at least the next year or two to come.”

During November’s election, Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli performed better than political pundits expected, giving incumbent Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, a run for his money. Elsewhere, political newcomer Republican Edward Durr knocked off Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, perhaps the biggest upset in the state this political season.

New Jersey lawmakers don’t seem keen to quietly ride out the lame-duck session despite the political shockwaves.

Participants in the virtual press conference pointed to several bills they said were anti-business, including A-5720/S-3667, which codifies energy goals in the 2019 Energy Master Plan without a cost analysis, and S-4214, which critics say would diminish how much consideration the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel would give to the cost of a proposal for consumers.

“Who’s looking at the cost burdens of business? Nobody,” Tom Bracken, president & CEO of the New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce, said during the press conference.

“So let’s really start to look at these struggles that we’re having; let’s address the struggles we’re having,” Bracken added. “We cannot afford to have these bills go through. It’s only going to aggravate the situation. It’s really time; it’s way past time to address this.”

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