New Jersey business leaders are expressing growing concern about the issue of affordability in the Garden State.

During a virtual news conference, Michele Siekerka, the president and CEO of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, said as the lame-duck legislative session picks up steam ahead of the new Legislature being sworn into office next month, “we face a constant flow of bills that frankly fly in the face of what’s been promised by our policymakers.”

After the November election, when Republicans won several unexpected victories, many lawmakers including Gov. Phil Murphy said they “got the message” that state residents are most concerned about affordability.

Don't rush the process

She said lawmakers are considering a number of measures that may turn out to impede small businesses while increasing costs, and these bills are being rushed through the pipeline without discussion and a complete understanding of what the possible consequences may be.

She said this is being done while “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.”

Siekerka said bearing this in mind, “we propose and ask that our policymakers take their time right now on complicated policies that need further time to be understood or hashed out.”

Put the money to good use

Tom Bracken, president and CEO of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, said New Jersey is sitting on billions of dollars in American Rescue Plan money and funding that will come to the Garden State from the recently completed federal infrastructure deal, and this money “could be a kick-start to our community, to our state and we hope that does happen.”

He pointed out “the business community still needs grant money to recover and they need it now."

Bracken said the state unemployment trust fund also needs to be replenished and “rather than have the business community pay for that, that money could easily and quite frankly with good justification be used to repay that and take it off the burden of the business community.”

He said neighboring states are doing this and it’s helping to revitalize the economy.

Forget pet projects

He said reckless passage of ill-advised bills would end up "dramatically hurting our economy."

He noted business leaders have also asked Gov. Phil Murphy to supplement the Return and Earn program that is currently offering people who return to work a $500 bonus, and offer bonuses of $1000 instead, to increase the number of employees who sign on.

Siekerka said many New Jersey businesses continue to struggle and they “need our support and our resources right now, not more mandates or increased costs for running their businesses.”

Specific bills business leaders oppose include:

A-4630-S577, which requires businesses to sign labor harmony agreements that open the door to unspecified union involvement in the activities of businesses that have 20 or more employees, and would force those businesses to hire legal representation.

A-5720/S-3667, which codifies certain energy goals related to 2019 Energy Master Plan. NJBIA believes this is a bill that puts the state’s Energy Master Plan, deemed as “aspirational,” into law. The EMP calls for a ban on natural gas, there is no cost analysis that goes with the EMP and the legislation calls for a clean energy standard that’s not defined.

S-4214, requires Division of Rate Counsel to consider environmental impacts of proposed rate or service measure when representing public interest in certain proceedings and appeals.

A-1659, which establishes the NJ Insurance Fair Conduct Act, also known as the “Bad Faith” bill. NJBIA argues the bill, which proposes to create a private cause of action for consumers regarding perceived unfair or unreasonable practices by insurers, ignores the protections already in place, and will result in consumers and businesses paying more for auto insurance due to litigation costs.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.

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