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NJ chamber leader pitches economic master plan - Ocean City Sentinel: News

NJ chamber leader pitches economic master plan

Bracken: ‘You have to have a goal. You can’t do it by just plugging holes’

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Posted: Wednesday, January 22, 2020 11:17 am

STONE HARBOR — Tom Bracken, president and CEO of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, compared the state of New Jersey to a troubled company and called for a state economic master plan last week during a Cape May County Chamber of Commerce meeting. 

Bracken, who also represented Opportunity New Jersey, spoke about the nonpartisan coalition’s plan for economic growth Thursday, Jan. 16, during a meeting at the Reeds at Shelter Haven in Stone Harbor. 

Opportunity New Jersey represents employers and employees, businesses, trade groups, organizations and concerned citizens, according to its website. The coalition created an economic master plan it hopes the state will implement. 

The coalition started about five years ago, Bracken said, because “the business community of New Jersey was not being heard.”

“The state of New Jersey’s economy is the 21st-largest economy in the world,” he said. “We need to make sure we have a voice in what’s going on so we can maintain that stature and we can maintain the strength and we can grow the economy.” 

According to Bracken, the coalition worked to increase the state’s gas tax, which, although Bracken said many people were concerned about, led to a lot of infrastructure in the state being rebuilt and repaired. 

Without the tax increase, the infrastructure “would have continued to crumble to the point where businesses would have been impacted dramatically,” he said. 

The coalition was also instrumental in helping eliminate New Jersey’s estate tax, Bracken said.

The tax was repealed as of January 2018.  

“We were one of the few states in the country that had an estate tax and an inheritance tax,” he said. 

Those efforts occurred before Gov. Phil Murphy took office in January 2018. 

Murphy, according to Bracken, had a mission to “make the state stronger and fairer,” and Bracken said he was successful in making the state fairer. 

“He’s written the mandates that have been implemented on business to help the middle class — the minimum wage increase, paid family leave, sick leave, some things in the works now that still have not been implemented, the fairer side of the economy and the middle class … has benefitted a lot from what he’s done,” he said. 

However, Bracken said, “we have to have a stronger economy to pay for all of this.”

In his opinion, “the governor’s method of paying for all of this is taxing business.”

About a year ago, a higher corporate business tax was implemented and the income tax on those who make $5 million per year or more also increased, according to Bracken. 

“Now for the third time, which you’ll hear in a couple of weeks when he introduces his budget, he will now go after a millionaire’s tax on people earning a million dollars or more,” Bracken said, “and the problem with that is not only is it going to continue to drive people out of the state, but it also impacts sub S corporations, LLCs and businesses that are taxed as individuals, so the collateral damage of a millionaire’s tax is not just the few people who earn that individually, it’s also the business community to a large degree.” 

Bracken said he feels the state needs an economic master plan, which he said it has never had. 

New Jersey has a health care master plan, an education master plan and will have an energy master plan, he said. 

Bracken said that anyone involved with a business, especially a troubled business, knows they need a plan. 

“You have to have a goal. You can’t do it by just plugging holes … quite frankly, the state of New Jersey is a troubled company. We have financial problems. We have out-migration problems. We’re the highest-taxed state in the country. We have many, many issues that aren’t being resolved and they need to be addressed,” he said.

A 2019 survey by the Garden State Initiative and the Farleigh Dickinson University School of Public & Global Affairs found 39 percent of all adults in the state indicated they are considering moving out in the next 10 years and another 5 percent indicated they are likely to move after 10 years. 

High property taxes and the state’s high cost of  living were cited as the two most concerning issues among survey respondents. 

U.S. News & World Report ranked New Jersey 49th, out of 50 states, for fiscal stability, 31st for its economy, second in education and eighth in opportunity, among other rankings. Overall, the state ranked 12th out of 50. 

In October 2018, Murphy announced an economic development plan, which focuses on increasing certain kinds of businesses in the state, increasing revenue and attracting businesses, “especially what he calls in the innovation economy,” Bracken said. 

According to an October 2018 news release from the Governor’s Office, Murphy’s economic development strategic plan includes adding about 300,000 jobs by fostering a better business climate, adding about 4 percent wage growth, bringing about 40,000 more women and minorities into STEM fields and attracting $625 million in new venture capital investment, employing 42,000 women and minorities and increasing wages for those groups and reducing poverty rates in urban areas. 

According to Bracken, the Opportunity New Jersey plan includes elements of Murphy’s strategic plan, spending-reduction ideas from Senate President Steve Sweeney’s Path to Progress report, and their own ideas to build the economic master plan for the state. 

He said they met with the state Assembly speaker twice, the governor twice and Sweeney and his staff twice about it. 

However, the plan has not been adopted by the state. 

According to the Opportunity New Jersey website, some of the recommendations include establishing a New Jersey Economic Development Advisory Council; imposing a moratorium on new taxes, fees, costs or actions that affect “New Jersey’s job creators” for two years; reforming and prioritizing economic development incentives; reviewing government efficiencies at all levels; abstaining from new mandates on employers; reforming New Jersey’s business tax structure “to be regionally competitive,” reforming capital gains taxes, not creating new health care mandates that increase the cost; and incentivizing workforce training and job placement programs through grants or tax credits, among many other priorities.  

Opportunity New Jersey representatives are speaking to organizations throughout the state about its plan and the organization. 

“If the entire plan is implemented, we could turn this state around and start to get the economic momentum that we need,” he said. 

For more information on Opportunity New Jersey, visit opportunitynj.org.

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