Did you happen to catch the dodgeball match on TV the other night? If you did, you were probably impressed at the degree of agility Phil Murphy and Kim Guadagno still bring to the table.
The gubernatorial election is important in New Jersey, but the latest debate was comical. Did you miss it? Cover your ears. What do you hear? Nothing! Well, we certainly didn’t hear anything of substance. Murphy won’t take sides on the 2 percent cap on labor settlements, or how he’d meet pension obligations, or even whether he’d ask Bob Menendez to resign if found guilty. Guadagno, meanwhile, ran as far away from her record as lieutenant governor as possible, which leaves her with almost no record at all.
Usually, this is where we endorse somebody.
Instead we highlight some key issues that we hope get taken seriously, regardless of which candidate you vote for.
Business climate. Chris Christie’s record here isn’t terrible — the state was able to convince some companies to relocate or remain here, like Panasonic and Prudential. But the “Jersey comeback” has lagged the nation, credit agencies are running out of bad letters to rate the Garden State and most of the jobs have been lower-paying service positions in entertainment facilities or warehouses.
Property taxes. The biggest issue by far. Murphy is going to close tax loopholes to lower taxes, while Guadagno will take on waste, fraud and abuse. Great plans, but if it were that easy, it would have been done by now, and you’re not going to see a notable tax cut from either plan. The honest answer is the property tax problem is not going to be solved overnight and taxes are not going to be drastically lowered — certainly not without rethinking how we pay for things like infrastructure and education.
Public pensions. Murphy has been running from this one, while Guadagno wants to meet current obligations, but it’s back to the negotiating table for new hires into the system. We’d like to see the state make good on what it has promised teachers, firefighters and the like, but where will that money come from?
Infrastructure. NJ Transit is in shambles, roads and bridges are in poor shape, and yes, business owners do care about these things, whether you’re an Amazon logistics center that needs good highways or a small business with commuters.
Cities. Atlantic City, Camden and a few others came up during the debates. Urban areas are playing a leading role across the country in revitalizing economies. They are the places where exciting tech companies want to locate and where a younger generation of workers want to live. Outside of Jersey City, this isn’t the case yet in New Jersey.