New Jersey’s economic recovery has lagged the nation. A state Chamber of Commerce survey indicates half of business leaders don’t expect the climate to improve much. So the Chamber next week is planning on bringing together business and legislative leaders to talk about reforming the tax code, cutting regulations, fixing the transportation infrastructure and finding ways to beef up the workforce. Chamber President and CEO, and NJTV Board Member, Tom Bracken spoke with NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams about the upcoming business summit that’s taking place in Atlantic City later this month.
Bracken calls this conference unprecedented, however the New Jersey Business and Industry Association holds a conference every year with the state’s top legislators. So how is this different? He says because, “we have over 40 organizations taking part and partnering with us in this and bringing their members. We have a very large turnout. We have invited the entire state legislature, so it’s unprecedented in the fact that it’s a very broad coalition of businesses that has come together at one point”
Bracken said it’s not only business, but also trades, unions and higher education that will be in attendance. “It’s a very, very broad group of people that are coming to start a dialogue, and hopefully an ongoing dialogue, with the legislature so we can get some resolution of some of our issues, move things along faster and continue to make the momentum of our economy move along at a much faster pace,” he said.
Bracken is also chair of Forward NJ and has a record of getting groups at odds with each other to unite around a single issue. In Forward NJ’s case the issue is transportation funding. “We can advocate as we’ve done for the need which becomes more acute everyday,” he said. “We have a panel of experts who will be discussing that specific need. You know, all we can do is continue to push forward and advocate for the need and make people aware of how perilous the infrastructure is in the state. Not only the transportation infrastructure, but we’ll be talking about things within our infrastructure such as water, sewer, the utilities. They all need attention and we can’t put these off any more. We have to start addressing these issues.”
He says that same kind of momentum is what the summit is hoping to take advantage of. “What we’re trying to do by inviting the legislature and having a dialogue with them is say, ‘Hey, look, the business community and the trades and everybody in this room want to help make this state better. We are as a state blessed with enormous resources. We’re not taking advantage of those resources. We can help you take advantage of those resources. We can help you with those issues.’ We need to have an ongoing dialogue, an ongoing communication and work together in a cooperative bipartisan positive way and we can help the state move forward faster. That’s our intent and this is the kickoff to try and accomplish that,” Bracken said.
Regarding the tax code he says they don’t necessarily want to change it, but they do have some ideas that might make New Jersey more competitive. “We’re not saying it needs a major overhaul, but you know the thing with the tax situation is that there’s an item called the net tax burden which is accumulating all the taxes in the state and comparing us to other states. This needs to be lowered and there’s several ways that we can do that that that I think are affordable within the budget and we’ll be talking about some of those,” he said.