On the front steps of Brower Commons at Rutgers University, political, educational and business leaders today voiced their support for an upcoming bond referendum that would borrow $750 million to support capital upgrades at the state's colleges and universities.
"Our company buys the same equipment as every other company in our industry, but what differentiates us is the quality of our employees," said Ralph Izzo, CEO of PSEG and chairman of the Rutgers board of governors. "The quality of our employees is not only driven by how hard they work, but by how well they're educated. So world-class employees need a world-class education, which means they need to be taught by world-class faculty — and world-class faculty needs world-class facilities."
"This is an investment in our economic future, and our very way of life," Izzo said, adding that borrowing interest rates are low, and the necessary labor to complete the projects is available. "The time couldn't be better."
Former Gov. Tom Kean, a longtime advocate for funding higher education, said he commended the university presidents for cobbling together finances to build new facilities in the 24 years since the state last funded a higher ed bond.
Kean, who was governor when the state last funded such a bond, said instead of criticizing the past, the time is now to look to the future by investing in the state's infrastructure.
"New Jersey is serious about attracting the high-tech jobs of the future," Kean said.
Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) said the bond issue was the most important thing facing the New Jersey economy in a long time. Sweeney also directed attention to the building trades union members who were at the rally to support the bond, asking if they were ready to go back to work. He was answered with a loud cheer.
Dr. Robert Barchi, president of Rutgers, said the school was eager to begin the projects the bond would fund, and pointed out that the issue was so important, leaders from both sides of the aisles, faculty and school administration, business and industry leaders were all "singing from the same songbook."