Governor Phil Murphy laid out his vision for shaping “the next New Jersey,” touting the Garden State as a national example of possibility and opportunity during his Jan. 10 session. 10 state address. “New Jersey is where opportunity is, where education is valued, justice is championed, compassion is the norm, and the American Dream is alive and well,” Murphy said. It’s a lot of work, but we can do better.”
Business leaders across the state generally applauded the governor’s tone and the direction he appeared to be taking.
Responding to Murphy’s speech, New Jersey Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Bracken said, “The best advertising we can do to attract businesses to the state is to make the existing businesses in the state happy. “There’s no better way to present a good image than to have, and I would say from a business standpoint, your customers are in a good place. Customers in New Jersey are businesses here.”
Bracken described the speech as upbeat, something he thought New Jersey needed and was “very appropriate.”
“I hope it kicks off the cheerleading trend more than we do now. It’s going to help us move forward as a state,” added. “From a business standpoint, the state is not what we want it to be. We can do more to create a better business environment and create a better economy. If we approach it with a better attitude, we will have a better future.” Good opportunity to make progress.”
“As Gov. Murphy begins the second year of his second term, we recognize and appreciate the recent steps taken to improve New Jersey’s business environment,” said Michele Siekerka, president and CEO of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in response to the state’s Said in the State of the Union address. “Specifically, Bill A573, signed last week to expedite construction inspections, and Bill A4929 signed last month, bringing flexibility to New Jersey’s financial incentive requirements related to remote work, are much needed and welcomed by the business community .”
Siekerka also mentioned the recent announcement that Netflix will be building a new production facility in Fort Monmouth.
“These initiatives provide tax revenue, permanent and temporary jobs, and vital economic activity to the state,” Siekerka said.
“The fact that we’re optimistic about some of the recent announcements and some of the legislation that’s been passed recently, coupled with the upbeat message of trying to improve our image. The whole picture looks good to me,” Bracken explained. “We’re not there yet. We’ve got a long way to go. But that makes me optimistic that maybe we can get there faster than usual if we continue on the same path we’ve been on.”
In his speech, Murphy listed several executive accomplishments, recently enacted initiatives and plans for 2023 and beyond. NJBIZ documented many of these projects in our coverage last week. Topping the list of new announcements are extending the application deadline for the ANCHOR property tax program, reforming the state’s outdated liquor licensing laws and creating a new Boardwalk fund to support coastal towns.
Among the accomplishments he highlighted were 31 straight months of job growth, a drop in the unemployment rate to 3.4%, a sharp jump in third-quarter gross domestic product growth, an increase in the minimum wage, progress on key infrastructure projects, the nation’s recent credit rating upgrade, and more.
A large part of the presentation focused on continuing efforts to build emerging industries such as film and television, sports betting, legal marijuana, fintech and offshore wind, while also restoring the state’s historic standing in life sciences and manufacturing.
“And we’ve surpassed many so-called ‘business-friendly’ states—some states that say we have to follow suit. States like Georgia and Florida. Our clear record of success is better than those that have been most successful through reduced investment in public education and civic programs.” More states have the richest and most powerful paying huge tax breaks,” Murphy said. “In New Jersey, we’re proving we can live our values, improve lives, and compete with anyone, anywhere, anytime. But more importantly, these states aren’t leaders in emerging industries. We are.”
Murphy said he was proud of the big companies bringing investment into new industries in the Garden State, but acknowledged that the state’s economy depends more on the health and vibrancy of small businesses and downtowns.
“A movie set in our great, historic downtown is a great thing. But even better, once the cameras are gone, your Main Street will be just as alive and just as brightly lit,” Murphy said . “Our downtowns have been hit hard during the pandemic, and we’re committed to getting them fully back. We’ve helped our downtowns and small businesses get through some very dark times and come into the picture with over $1 billion in support. The recovery is still underway. In the budget we passed, we collectively maintained a $50 million investment in the Main Street Recovery Program.”
The business community certainly welcomes the recognition of small businesses and downtowns, but is asking for more.
“We do believe that government 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 that New Jersey was somewhat or not at all affordable for business. literally.”
Siekerka added that business grants are appreciated, but fall short of more comprehensive and deserved relief to help the overburdened small business community.
Bracken expressed cautious optimism about what he heard from Murphy. “In his speech, the governor acknowledged that our small business community is still suffering,” Bracken said. “In fact, I think his acknowledgment of that is a good sign that some of the things we had on the table might be resolved because he acknowledged the need to do so.”
The overall business response is basically that in creating the “next New Jersey” that attracts new businesses, policymakers should not forget the businesses that are already here to deal with a range of challenges and costs. Items of contention between Murphy and the business community include the lingering issue of unemployment insurance trust funds, the need for more aid for underfunded businesses and, of course, taxes.
Siekerka noted that, unlike many other states, New Jersey is not using excess COVID funds to help supplement UI trust funds. “This $1 billion increase in the business unemployment tax, which is a tax on jobs, is entirely the result of some of the longest pandemic shutdowns in the country, and now every business in New Jersey is spending hundreds of dollars more per employee per year than before to a pandemic,” Siekerka said. “Also, as we heard a lot about the ANCHOR property tax relief today in the Governor’s address, it must be noted again that New Jersey businesses are excluded from this assistance – even though they pay nearly half of the state’s property taxes .”
After the presentation, two other lingering questions elicited some notable reactions. First, Murphy did not elaborate on a potential mandate to electrify buildings in the state when discussing his administration’s clean energy efforts.
“He refuses to explain his disastrously expensive and intrusive policy requiring every building in the state to be electrically retrofitted,” Eric DeGassero, executive vice president of the Fuelers Association of New Jersey, said in a statement. With a lack of candor today about the most radical shift in state energy, environmental, housing and economic policy in New Jersey history, his penchant for silence on building electrification remains unblemished. Governor Murphy is spending your money where his mouth is not .”
Another issue still unresolved at the local and county level is the soaring state health insurance premium.
“With most municipalities in New Jersey working on their 2023 budgets, municipalities participating in the State Health Benefits Program (SHBP) have yet to reach an agreement on additional state revenue to reduce the 22 percent tax that municipalities participating in the program face. Amazing growth in SHBP,” the New Jersey Municipal League said in a statement. “While the conversation is ongoing, this issue needs to be resolved as quickly as possible to minimize budgetary and revenue concerns.”
It was the first face-to-face speech of its kind since 2020, laying the groundwork for the upcoming Budget in just a few weeks.
“We’ve always swaggered. In the past, that was our line of defense against any slights and jokes. Not anymore,” Murphy said. “It’s okay to admit it – it’s great to be from New Jersey again. It’s cool because we’re once again leading the way in all the right things. Protecting the fundamental rights and respecting the human dignity of every New Jerseyan. Attracting future high Growth industries. Creating opportunities for everyone in every community to get a world-class education and a good-paying, bread-and-earning job.”
“And, because in 2026, we’re going to host the World Cup,” Murphy added.
Bracken said he believed progress was possible because of the combination of the Jersey pride theme of Murphy’s speech, the acknowledgments he made, particularly about the suffering small business community, and recent announcements and legislation.
“We just have to start yesterday and move in the same direction,” Bracken said.