As the candidates gear up for a truncated U.S. Senate campaign, business leaders hope the eventual winner emerges with a plan to fix the federal government's fiscal disarray.
Phil Kirschner, president of the Business and Industry Association of New Jersey, said Congress has major fiscal problems, but few concrete solutions.
"While there's been a lot of talk, there's not been much action whatsoever on how we get the country's fiscal situation back in order," Kirschner said. "We just sort of leap from crisis to crisis and temporary patch to temporary patch."
Four Democrats and two Republicans filed Monday to run in August's primary election. The Democratic field includes Newark Mayor Cory Booker, congressmen Rush Holt and Frank Pallone, and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver. The Republicans are former Bogota Mayor and Americans for Prosperity fellow Steve Lonegan and Piscataway physician Alieta Eck.
Kirschner said fiscal mismanagement at the national level has direct impacts on local businesses. For instance, he said, it can result in higher taxes on businesses as Congress tries to generate revenue to fill budget holes.
John Galandak, president of the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey, said the national debt also can lead to spending cuts, hurting government contractors, such as those in the defense industry.
"If they (Congress) can't keep our fiscal house in order, then it certainly has an impact on monetary policy and has an impact on the budget process," he said. "It has an impact on the entire nation."
Galandak said other top issues include health care and the cost of energy. He'd like to hear the candidates discuss which committees they would seek to join, since committee assignments can go a long way toward determining a senator's influence of issues of importance to the state.
The six candidates bring a wide array of backgrounds, and though none is a titan of industry, Kirschner said any executive experience is important, even if it's in the public sector.
"If you've been a mayor, which is like a CEO, you ultimately have a budget and have to make sometimes very difficult decisions on how to meet those budgets, particularly when your resources are not as much as your spending had been," said Kirschner, who said he was speaking generally and wasn't endorsing any particular candidate.
Kirschner said the same holds true for anyone who's ever had to manage a payroll.
"You have to make very, very tough choices," he said.
Galandak said he's not particularly surprised by the field of candidates, though he said the Democratic field is a bit larger than he would have guessed.
Though the eventual winner will arrive in Washington with no seniority, Galandak said he hopes they'll make up for that by bringing a fresh perspective.
"Maybe their newness will be a refreshing change," he said. "Maybe a different perspective might help in some way get the dialogue moving, no matter who wins."
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