If you take it from the governor, the state’s broken economy is on the mend. Or at least on track to be on the mend after 11 credit downgrades during the Christie administration. As he addressed the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey, he explained his pro-growth, progressive plan aimed to improve the state’s business climate, which the conservative-leaning think tank the Tax Foundation ranked as last in the nation.
“If we don’t make economic progress, we can’t make social progress. And likewise, if we don’t make social progress, we can’t make economic progress. Those are not at odds with each other, they go hand-in-hand,” said Gov. Phil Murphy.
Part of his social progress includes a millionaire’s tax and an increased minimum wage. No applause from the business community there. But without it, he said, we can’t fund the things that make New Jersey an attractive place to live.
“Businesses, families come here, stay here because of investment in public education, investment in roads, investment in transportation. Health care that’s accessible. Save the Children ranks New Jersey as the number one state to raise a kid in America,” Murphy said.
He struck back at critics who say he is against tax incentives.
“I support them. Period. They are a vital tool, particularly. You cannot unilaterally disarm in this day and age in the competition for talent and businesses relative to other states,” Murphy said.
But, he said, his incentives are more targeted, capped and ensure more fairness for small- and medium-sized businesses. One incentive he’s especially proud of is the Innovation Evergreen Fund. It auctions tax credits to large companies that in turn support startups through mentorship, incubator programs or sharing work spaces.
“I have made no secret in my desire to see us lead in the global startup economy,” said Murphy.
He encouraged business to stack incentives and take advantage of multiple state and federal credits at a time. But as for how his agenda was received, Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey President Debra DiLorenzo said not all her members are pleased.
“Well the minimum wage, for one, is a concern, especially here in South Jersey. We have a lot of tourism-type members of our chamber who are concerned with that, and also the nonprofit community, especially the ones that are providing medical assistance, and home health aids and things like that. But you know, it’s the law now. We have to work with it,” said DiLorenzo.
One thing the governor wanted to leave this room with was a clear picture of the growth of the businesses wanting to come into the state. He said it’s up 3 percent, the highest it’s been since 2009, and the end of an eight-year downward trend under the Christie administration.
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