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A budget address that offered comfort to business

By - Last modified: March 4, 2013 at 6:12 AM

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If there's any fear business owners might have about Chris Christie, it's that he's gotten so popular that he can take his traditional base — business — for granted. After all, when you're polling favorably with nearly three-quarters of voters, you can pretty much start commissioning the statues. Or even churches.

But in his budget address last week, the governor dashed any fears about abandoning the private sector, announcing he would include $200 million in business tax relief as scheduled, despite persistent questions about the state's lagging economy and the long-term effect Hurricane Sandy may have on revenue figures. His relief efforts include the phase-out of the Transitional Energy Facility Assessment, the phase-in of the single sales factor formula and a 25 percent reduction in the minimum tax for S corporations. On top of that, he wants to create a $40 million contingency fund to cover rebuilding gaps after federal Sandy relief funding is spent; that could in part be used to help restore businesses in hard-hit coastal areas.

It's encouraging to see Christie is still firmly committed to reforming the toxic business tax climate, even if he's had to all but walk away from the income tax cut he proposed last year, which went from being a centerpiece of his State of the State address in January 2012 to a footnote of last week's speech. Other groups might argue against tax relief when the spending plan includes gimmicks like delaying almost $400 million in homestead rebates by a few months, but New Jersey still has work to do to present itself as a good place to open a company. Gubernatorial challenger Barbara Buono, in hammering away at Christie's economic record, doesn't seem to understand that it's the policies that were put into place in the years of Democratic control that eroded executives' confidence in the Garden State as a corporate location. If she wants to challenge Christie on the job numbers, it's only fair she admit that at a minimum, the governor is undoing years of poor policy.

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