Gov. Phil Murphy and U.S. Sens. Cory Booker and Sen. Rob Menendez detailed issues tied to prospects for the state’s economy in a dinner gala capping the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce’s 81st annual Walk to Washington.
The traditional Congressional Dinner, held Thursday at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C., featured the trio suggesting that top state priorities include the attraction and retention of millennials, infrastructure improvements and gun-safety legislation.
Booker challenged the business community to think about the future of the state and how New Jersey can become a more attractive destination for millennials.
“New Jersey is an exceptional state, but we are the number one state in America with the highest number of millennials leaving,” Booker said at the dinner. “We are number one in something we should not be number one in. New Jersey is missing out on the next generation of workers, of entrepreneurs of innovators.
“I call on my community tonight to not let this track that has happened over the last decade to continue,” he urged. “For all of us, we need to think about ways to be working together to improve our state and ensure that we are not a state that loses its life blood, that loses our breadth of the future. But instead, do what New Jersey has done for centuries. It has led this nation. We are America's leaders and have got to continue that.”
“Connecting businesses with markets and workers with jobs will take fixing crumbling and unreliable infrastructure – roads and bridges, our rail network, and building one very important tunnel,” Murphy said. “We’re going to ensure these investments are made properly and that we have the modern infrastructure our economy demands. We made a first round of investments last week, announcing a total of over $160 million in municipal grants to 505 communities through the Transportation Trust Fund. Fixing New Jersey Transit, specifically, is also a top priority. It’ll be hard to create jobs if employees can’t reliably get to them.
“And about that tunnel. I will fight tooth-and-nail for Gateway,” he continued. “I do not believe I’m exaggerating when I say no single project is as critical not just to our state's economy, but to our national economy. We must get this done. Regrettably, the infrastructure plan the President unveiled a few weeks ago didn’t recognize Gateway’s singular importance, and I spoke earlier this week with the President and his team about this at the White House.”
The governor said he will work to create a strong STEM curriculum for every high school, while seeking to make tuition-free community college for state residents.
Murphy also spoke against plans for offshore drilling, stating it could hurt the state’s tourism industry. But the governor sees opportunity in the clean energy and advanced manufacturing sectors.
To finance initiatives, Murphy said the state first needs to ensure tax fairness.
“We have to acknowledge the fact that a New Jerseyan earning more than $2 million just got a $60,000 tax break from the feds– before we factor in our efforts to restore the SALT deduction for property taxes,” he said. “Many large corporations received windfalls – some into the hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars – that they are deliberating on ways to spend.
“I applaud Horizon’s announcement on their plans to invest more deeply in some of New Jersey’s toughest public health challenges as a result of their new tax reality. But the middle-class didn’t get anything near this. … Real and lasting property tax relief must start with our beleaguered middle class, and we will use every tool to help them. I remain committed to a true Millionaire’s Tax and closing corporate tax loopholes most states closed long ago.”
Menendez spoke of making strides towards gun safety regulations and the need for business leaders to be a part of the effort.
State Chamber president Tom Bracken announced the renaming of the Chamber’s Business Leadership Award in honor of former Gov. Tom Kean. The Chamber honored the memory of late former Gov. Brendan Byrne and awarded the Tom Kean Sr. Business Leadership Award for his tenure and leadership.