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Business leaders see keynote material without 'comeback'

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The state's leading business advocates say Gov. Chris Christie will have plenty of material for his keynote address at the Republican National Convention without having to use the phrase “New Jersey Comeback.”

“There were a number of accomplishments that were all done with bipartisan support that I think he will talk about as examples of big issues that have been tackled in New Jersey,” said Philip Kirschner, president of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association.

The governor has said he wouldn’t use the phrase, but has declined to discuss other details of his keynote address.

From making changes to the state budget to pension reform, Christie will have a variety of topics to choose from in Tampa, Kirschner said.

Kirschner anticipates Christie pointing to presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan as leaders who have the ability to build bipartisan support for addressing difficult issues like entitlement reform.

Kirschner said he could see Christie “playing off what he’s been able to accomplish in New Jersey and attributing those same qualities to the Republican presidential ticket.”

However, Kirschner does see a valid basis for the phrase “New Jersey Comeback.”

“There’s no question that we are starting to come back in terms of the number of jobs we have created in our state,” Kirschner said. In addition, there have been important new policies, such as the Rutgers-UMDNJ merger, he said. The proposal was considered by Govs. Jim McGreevey and Jon S. Corzine.

“Governor Christie wasn’t the first governor to think of something like this — two other governors did a lot of work and thought about it, but they didn’t get it done,” Kirschner said. “Businesses respect getting things done.”

New Jersey Chamber of Commerce President Thomas A. Bracken said Christie’s speech remains a rich opportunity to portray the state in a positive light.

“I just want him to say that there’s been a lot of progress in New Jersey since he became governor,” Bracken said. “There’s been a lot of compromise between the Republican administration and the Democratic Legislature that has addressed things that have been needed in the state for many years.”

Bracken said there has been too much focus on the negative July employment report.

“Just because we had one bad month of jobs numbers, why do you discount everything that’s been accomplished prior to that? That makes no sense,” Bracken said.

Bracken also said Christie’s focus on improving the business climate in the state will ultimately lead to a full “comeback.”

“The problem has been identified, work has begun to make progress on improving the problem and that’s the state we’re in right now,” Bracken said. “There’s a lot more work to be done, and with more work on both sides, eventually the comeback will be real.”

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