Assemblywoman Maria Rodriguez-Gregg (R-Medford) led a roundtable discussion Thursday in Trenton with business leaders from various industries and sectors, seeking feedback on the state’s business climate and future economic prospects.
Joined by Assemblyman Dave Rible (R-Wall Township), Rodriguez-Gregg opened the meeting by contrasting the need for business-friendly initiatives with Wednesday’s news that Elmwood Park-based Sealed Air, a Fortune 500 maker of Bubble Wrap and other packaging, will be moving its global headquarters to North Carolina.
“That type of shift we did not want to see,” Rodriguez-Gregg said.
New Jersey’s high-tax climate was frequently mentioned by business leaders as being a major deterrent for businesses seeking to operate within the state.
“Anywhere we can cut, we should be cutting,” New Jersey Business & Industry Association First Vice President David Brogan said in regard to taxes.
Other issues individually discussed included the recent minimum wage increase through constitutional amendment, the push for statewide paid sick-leave, unpredictable budget cycles and the continued implementation of provisions under the Affordable Care Act.
As members of the business community have often previously noted, it’s not one singular issue that they fear the most, but rather all of the items they view to be unfriendly to business as a collective.
“All these things make executives and business owners take a step back and say, ‘What are they doing in New Jersey?’ ” Brogan said.
“It’s not one thing,” said Brad Molotsky, executive vice president and general counsel for Brandywine Realty Trust. “It’s all of it.”
Michael Egenton, senior vice president of government relations for the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, said that Trenton and the business community go back and forth between working together and against one another.
“We take five steps forward and 10 steps back,” Egenton said.
Despite this, Egenton said that ultimately, all parties at the table want to see New Jersey’s economy succeed. It’s a matter of agreeing on how to achieve it.
“We all have the same goal,” Egenton said.
James Hughes, economist and dean of the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers, gave a presentation on the state’s recent fiscal performance and outlook.
Other attendees featured representatives from the food service, health care and real estate industries, among others.
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