Can we keep businesses from leaving NJ?
A recent New Jersey Business and Industry Association survey found while many Garden State businesses are expecting to earn higher profits this year, they have serious concerns about staying here long-term because of high taxes and a lot of regulations and bureaucracy.
So can anything really be done now to improve things?
Michele Siekerka, the president of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association believes cutting the estate tax would send a very positive signal.
“Not just to business but to individuals living in the state of New Jersey who are contemplating business and estate planning to reconsider staying in New Jersey when they otherwise might have been planning their exit strategy,” Siekerka said.
Tom Bracken, the president of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce agreed.
“It’s critically important to stop the 'outmigration' of people and businesses in New Jersey, and the state cannot have an economic recovery without becoming more competitive and without retaining jobs and adding jobs,” he said. “To me the best way to start that process of retention and attraction is through elimination of the estate tax. We have to look at that, I know it’s being discussed, we have a very high expectation that something will happen in a positive way with regard to the estate tax.”
He also believes lawmakers must work out a permanent funding plan for the Transportation Trust Fund.
“That would have a significant impact on the competitiveness of the state from a business standpoint and the attractiveness of living here,” he said.
Siekerka said the association is looking forward to “having some attention to the Transportation Trust Fund," and learning how it will be replenished.
“Anytime we’re looking at infrastructure improvement in the state of New Jersey that means jobs, but the challenge is how are we paying for that," she said.
Siekerka doesn’t think raising the gas tax is the answer.
“Anytime we talk about an increase in any tax whatsoever we have a concern because New Jersey far and away is the highest taxed state in this country,” she said.
Bracken agrees the issue must be resolved.
“We’ve been talking about this for well over two years, it’s not done, it has to get done, it’s the foundation of our economy we have to resolve that,” he said. “Hopefully it’s done in a very intelligent and equitable way.”
Both Bracken and Siekerka oppose the idea of approving a Constitutional amendment that would force the state to make full pension and health benefit payments, something state Senate President Steve Sweeney has proposed.
“This whole new way of passing policy in the state of New Jersey through seeking amendments to our Constitution is something that is frightening and becomes a real slippery slope,” said Siekerka. “Our democracy calls for legislating, not changing the Constitution every time there’s a significant problem.”
Bracken said approving a Constitutional amendment to force the state to make pension and health benefit payments would mean the funds for that “are going to have to come from somebody or either going to result in higher taxes for businesses and individuals or cuts in programs that impact everybody.”
Neither Bracken nor Siekerka expect any dramatic lowering of property taxes in the Garden state this year.
“It’s unfortunate because he property tax issue is a huge issue for the state of New Jersey,” Siekerka said. “Right now it’s not being discussed anywhere and it certainly should be discussed everywhere.”
Bracken added that “2016 will be a gubernatorial election campaigning year, and this could ignite serious discussion about many long term issues in Jersey, but it may translate to actually getting many things done.”