Robert Hugin Q&A

The Senatorial Battle: Hugin vs. Menendez

Q: What are your key tenets regarding job creation and growing the economy, especially in New Jersey?

A: There is very little that is more important than giving people job security. So, creating jobs has to be a high priority. Trenton and Washington, D.C. have failed us in creating job opportunities. We have to reverse that. 

We need to create the right government tax policies that create an environment for job creation; we need a revamped education system to ensure that we are producing the kind of skilled students and employees who have the background to handle the jobs of the future. 

I am very worried about the jobs outlook in New Jersey because we have the fastest rate of outmigration of 18- to 34-year-olds in the country. That is distressing when you combine that with the accelerated rate of outmigration of the wealthiest people in the state because of the cap on state and local tax (SALT) deductions. 

New Jersey also has the highest percentage of 20-year-olds living with their parents in the country. If they find a job in the state, they can’t afford to live here, so they live with their parents. Therefore, affordability is what we have to attack to increase the opportunities for job creation. That is No 1. We are driving people out of the state because of the unaffordability issue. This includes high taxes.

The state’s economy is being helped by a strong national economy, which has been helped by tax reform. However, the $10,000 cap on SALT deductions has negatively impacted the people who have the capital for business formation. Losing that capital [as it moves] out of New Jersey is a triple whammy to us: It reduces income taxes at the higher levels; we lose philanthropy; and it also has an impact on property taxes. High-end housing prices throughout suburban New Jersey have come down significantly in the last eight months. [The state] is not going to collect less property taxes. So, it is the middle class who will bear the burden of property tax increases when they occur. 

Also, the business community needs to stand up and make sure its representatives in Trenton and Washington, D.C. recognize what is important for people. There is no force … no power better than free enterprise. Market-based solutions alleviate poverty, provide for economic growth and improve quality of life. The business community must stand up and fight for the principles of opportunity and broad prosperity. … It has not stood up. We wouldn’t have the policies that we have in the state today if it did stand up for what it believes in while providing opportunities … not trapping people into government dependency, but helping provide policies that encourage free enterprise.

Q: What changes would you make to our primary, secondary and higher education systems to advance the skills of the nation’s workforce?

A: In New Jersey, we have a two-tier education system. We have strong performing suburban schools, which provide kids with choice and opportunity for advancement. Then, we have low-income white areas and low-income minority areas where kids are destined to failure because we don’t provide them with any opportunities. The education system today does not provide a full range of skills building that we need for the jobs of the future.

My campaign has very specific ideas for the kinds of reforms that are needed to ensure that kids get the right opportunities. We need to reorient the skills mix and the training we give students in high school, community college and vocational school. The opportunity has to be more diversified; not just pushing everyone in the same direction … not just replicating a four-year college type of situation. 

Q: What are your thoughts on how to best stabilize – or even reduce – healthcare costs?

A: I have spent 19 years in the biotech field and 11 years on the board of a very forward-looking healthcare system that worked hard to be the template for the type of transformation we need in healthcare. Washington has failed to make sure we have a healthcare system that focuses on people’s outcomes, provider performance and value for what we spend. We have a system that was designed 70 years ago as a sick-care, hospital-centric system that needs to be transformed.

We need to decentralize Medicaid and transform our payment system to ensure we incentivize prevention and wellness and deliver dignified end-of-life care. 

The frustrating part of it, having been involved in the healthcare reform debate for a very long time, is that Democrats and Republicans agree on 75 percent to 80 percent of the things we need to do in healthcare. However, we don’t do the 75 percent or 80 percent because we don’t agree on the 20 percent. This is because we have leaders who put politics and party ahead of people. I am running because of the corruption and the failure to support the people of New Jersey, and healthcare is one of the greatest examples.

I can tell you many stories about the positive aspects of the Affordable Care Act that have to be maintained, whether it is pre-existing conditions, coverage until one is 26 years of age on his or her parent’s insurance program, and incentives for wellness and prevention, but the ACA hurt the working poor. It discriminated against them so dramatically that it is just an embarrassment that needs to be fixed. 

Q: What do you feel is the best way to handle the country’s unauthorized immigration problem?

A: Immigration is a great positive force for change in our country. It helps the economy and helps our culture. My grandparents were immigrants, and New Jersey is a state of immigrants. However, there are people, including my opponent, who don’t know how to solve the problem. They believe immigration is a great political tool to use as leverage against others. It is time for results. There are a few components to immigration reform that are necessary: First, people want safe, secure cities, and sanctuary cities don’t help anybody. If people commit a crime in New Jersey, they should be arrested and prosecuted. We also shouldn’t pit one law enforcement agency against the other. 

Then, we need comprehensive and compassionate immigration reform. People who are building constructive and productive lives deserve a path to citizenship – not a path that is faster than people who are here legally – but we need to put certainty on it. It helps the economy … it is the right thing to do. 

Q: We are in the midst of an international trade war with China and other countries, many of which have been our allies. This is hurting the manufacturing sector. What can you do to lessen the impact of these tariffs, especially those that affect manufacturing? 

A: Free trade is incredibly important. It is a great asset to all of us. Trade also needs to be fair and America hasn’t been treated fairly. Tariffs are bad for job creation, bad for consumers, and bad for the economy. That said, if tariffs are being used as negotiating leverage to get fair trade, so we can have enhanced free trade, then I will support them. But I don’t generally support the enactment of tariffs. That’s a bad outcome for everyone.

China is a situation where the business community does need to stand up. China has failed to recognize intellectual property standards and has violated World Trade Organization agreements. We have to stand up for what is right. 

There is some type of framework being worked on with Mexico and Canada and hopefully next with the European Union. So, there are countries in which we’ve had great trading relationships with, and we should retain and enhance those relationships. But let’s be clear, America has not been treated fairly in a lot of trade agreements over the years. We need to make sure we get fair deals, while being careful that we don’t hurt America while we do it.

Q: Overall, what do you feel is the best way to handle our nation’s trade imbalance?

A: We are just beginning to see the effects of corporate tax reform. The industry that I was previously in was almost forced to move important manufacturing jobs overseas because of the inequities in the tax system. Now that we have a level playing field, the opportunity to have more fairness and more products created and manufactured in the US is a very positive thing, with long-term benefits for balanced trade.

Q: What are your thoughts on how to best deliver affordable energy to US businesses?

A: Energy technologies have enhanced dramatically, but we have not yet had the technological breakthroughs to give us the capability to really take advantage of the opportunities that exist with wind and solar. I don’t think government should be in the business of picking winners and losers, but we should have incentives for research in areas such as battery technology so that solar energy could compete with other costs. 

We just don’t want to be energy independent, but energy independent in a way that is incredibly renewable.

Q: What is your position on environmental protection and global warming? Should the US have backed out of the Paris Agreement? What are your thoughts on the EPA’s Affordable Energy Rule proposal that would relax carbon emission regulations on power plants?

A: There is global warming. I am an outdoorsman, a sportsman, a fisherman and have seen the changing environmental patterns in the world. We have to make sure that a safe and clean environment is a high priority. Anyone who denies global warming doesn’t live in the world that I live in. Humans have an impact on this, but we have let this become way too politicized. You find people who only want certain aspects of research to be published and proposed on both sides of the argument. I am a believer that technology and the ability to do things in a very environmentally friendly way produce economic growth. I was involved in a company that built a new manufacturing plant and new office buildings in the most environmentally friendly way … that still provided economic opportunities for job creation and business expansion. 

Robert Hugin

“People who are building constructive and productive lives deserve a path to citizenship – not a path that is faster than people who are here legally – but we need to put certainty on it. It helps the economy … it is the right thing to do.” ­— Bob Hugin

The Paris Agreement was unfairly balanced. The burden was unfairly put on the US. The agreement was never ratified. It was simply an administrative action with the US President. We should have aggressive environmental policies, but we should make sure we hold other people to the same standards we hold ourselves, and not put our workers at a competitive disadvantage; allowing other countries 50 years to do what we are expected to do in two or three years. So, I very much support the intent of the Paris Agreement, but the execution of it was flawed.

On the EPAs Affordable Energy Rule proposal, I am not a fan of lowering environmental standards. There are better solutions than lowering the standards.

Q: What is your stance on marijuana legalization in New Jersey and the rest of the country?

A: I am a strong supporter of criminal justice reform and the decriminalization of marijuana … small marijuana usage. However, I am opposed to the legalization of marijuana … I don’t like government telling us what we can and can’t do generally, but the government’s responsibility is to ensure public health and safety, and I do not believe that today there is a test that can ensure that we don’t have impaired people in areas of major concern to me, like driving first graders to school on a bus or driving a NJ Transit train. So, I care about the public safety issue that I think has been inappropriately examined here.

Secondly, I have met with a number of African-American urban ministers who believe the legalization of marijuana is very bad for their communities in terms of job opportunities for the young. I have also done research on whether marijuana is a gateway drug, and there is mixed evidence on that. I just don’t see the benefit to our youth in making it legal.

I also think the financial aspects of legalizing marijuana have been way over-sold. If you look at the black market that has developed in Colorado, that marijuana is being sold at higher strengths and at lower costs. And there has also been talk about Colorado potentially making the sale of marijuana illegal again.

So, let’s have an honest and rigorous assessment of the perceived economic values of legalized marijuana and make sure we are not creating a cost structure that will actually dig a deeper hole for a state that is in such fiscal disrepair. 

Q: What are your thoughts about the impact of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017 on New Jersey? If elected, would you leave the act untouched or would you pursue any changes?

A: It’s unacceptable. There are many good aspects of the Tax Act, but the cap on SALT is something that is bad and needs to be dealt with. Senator Menendez sat on his hands and did nothing on the Senate Finance Committee, leaving New Jerseyans with a $10,000 cap on SALT deductions. 

On the specific legislation, I think there will always be [opportunities] to make sure it will be administered in a way that is both fair and appropriate. It will evolve over time.

Q: We all know that New Jersey is a donor state, getting 33 cents back for every dollar it sends to Washington. What can you do to help the state get its fair share of money back from Washington? 

A: This is one of the reasons why I am running. New Jersey is not a rich state. It is a high cost state. We have issues in Trenton that we have to deal with, but Washington has failed us. Our representatives in the Senate have failed us. People talk about the Gateway Tunnel … it should have been done in the 1990s. The Portal Bridge should have been replaced 30 to 40 years ago. 

In every new program, New Jersey is being so disrespected, whether it is university research dollars or infrastructure, agriculture or aviation resources … we are just so poorly represented that we don’t get a fair return on our money. 

New programs should first go to the states that are getting the least return for their money. 

Q: What action would you take to ensure the state and region receives the transportation funding it needs to build the Gateway Tunnel and other infrastructure projects?

A: Let’s bring people together in a bipartisan fashion and identify our future needs, so that New Jersey is not fighting for yesterday’s investment. 

The Gateway Tunnel, if we start this year, won’t be ready for 12 years. What infrastructure will we need in 2030? That is what we should be talking about today. 

President Trump has been in office 18 months now, but the tunnel should have been done 25 years ago. So, there are plenty of people to blame for failure to get those things done. 

We need to make sure Washington understands it is in the country’s interest to improve the economy of New Jersey. It is a crossroads that helps the economy in New York, New England, the Mid-Atlantic and states west of us … we need to invest in New Jersey.

Robert J. Hugin: A Biography 

Bob Hugin is the Republican candidate for US Senator from New Jersey. Though this is the first time he is running for public office, it is not his first venture into public service. 

After graduating from Princeton University in 1976, receiving a BA in Political Science with a concentration in Latin America studies, Hugin joined the U.S. Marine Corps, where he was an active duty infantry officer from 1976 to 1983, and then served as a Reserve Officer from 1983 to 1990.

Asked why he joined the Marines after Princeton University, rather than going on to obtain a master’s degree or entering the private sector, he tells New Jersey Business: “I was born in Jersey City, grew up in Union City, was the first in my family to go to college, had a full scholarship to Princeton because my parents couldn’t afford to pay a penny for me to go. … I knew I had to do something bigger and better than myself … that I should pay something back. It was the end of the Vietnam War and soldiers were coming back and being disrespected and not recognized for their service. I thought I had to give back.”

Hugin learned the lesson of selfless leadership in the military. “In the Marine Corp., it is so clear what the common mission is and what you need to do to achieve the outcome you want. The best way to achieve that is through selfless leadership and helping others become successful. The more people you help, the higher probability there is in achieving your goals and being successful yourself. I have taken that with me wherever I go in life,” he says.

Hugin’s life is marked with success. 

As mentioned, he was the first person in his family to attend college, earning a full scholarship to Princeton. Today serving as a Trustee of the university, he recalls, “Princeton opened the world to me. … I appreciated that opportunity, which I could never have afforded myself.”

After his tour of active duty in the Marine Corp., Hugin attended the Darden School of Graduate Business Administration at the University of Virginia where he earned his MBA. In 1985, he joined J.P. Morgan, where he led several businesses and rose to become a managing director.

In 1999, Hugin joined biotech firm Celgene as senior vice president and CFO. He was elected to its board of directors in December 2001. He became president and COO in 2006, moving up to CEO in 2010. In 2011, he was elected chairman, and in 2016, executive chairman.

He says of his career at Celgene: “I joined a company that had six weeks of cash left … that was ranked among the top 10 companies in the US to go bankrupt. With a group of people, we transformed Celgene into a thriving entity that is one of America’s treasures in fighting cancer.”

In 2013, Hugin became chairman of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). He is a board member of The Medicines Company and The Darden Foundation, University of Virginia. He is also a trustee of the Atlantic Health System and Family Promise, and is a past board member of Choose New Jersey.

Hugin lives in Summit with his wife Kathy. The couple have three children: Hilary (27), Robbie (25) and Mac (23). Both of his sons currently serve in the Marine Corp., and Hugin’s father was a staff sergeant in the Army Air Corp. during World War II. That said, Hugin comments that he doesn’t come from a military family. However, he firmly believes in a strong national defense and that the economic freedom and security that the US enjoys is because “we have had people with the courage and valor to protect our country for these past 240-plus years.”

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