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Business community urges Christie to 'stay the course' in State of the State address

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Christie is scheduled to deliver his State of the State address on Tuesday afternoon.
Christie is scheduled to deliver his State of the State address on Tuesday afternoon.

The business community doesn't want its agenda to get lost in the politics of the George Washington Bridge scandal.

So on Tuesday afternoon, when Gov. Chris Christie delivers his State of the State address, some say it will be more important than ever for the governor to replace his focus on growing the state's economy.

"Stay the course," said Michael Egenton, senior vice president of government relations for the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce. "Especially with what's been going on politically."

While the investigation into the September lane closures are sure to continue, Egenton said it's important that both members of the Legislature and those working in the governor's office keep in mind that in New Jersey, "business still needs to get done."

He says losing sight of that would be detrimental to all, especially given that the state's economic outlook continues to brighten.

"We're doing good economically, and financial forecasts are on target," Egenton said.

Laurie Ehlbeck, state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, said that she, too, is concerned the political fallout of the scandal might impede on the state's business goals, which she hopes do not get "thwarted" by what's happening politically.

"I think it's going to make things a little more difficult," Ehlbeck said.

But after the last few years watching the Christie administration and the all-Democratic Legislature coexist in Trenton, Ehlbeck says she has hope.

"I think they've shown that they can work together in a bipartisan manner," she said.

So what is the business community looking to hear today from Christie?

Whether it be picking back up where the Economic Opportunity Act left off or exploring new avenues, making sure the state is attracting the right type of companies will be important in 2014.

"We're always open to what can we do to continue to spur economic growth," Egenton said.

Ehlbeck says she'd like to see Christie propose a broad-based income or property tax cut.

"Either of those would be very helpful to businesses," Ehlbeck said.

But don't look for too many specifics Tuesday afternoon: Egenton said the speech traditionally "never does go into any heavy details." Still, he says, it can provide a framework for the year's economic agenda.

"Obviously, it's also a good insight as to where we're at, how we're doing economically," he said.

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