In an effort to build upon grassroots support, OpportunityNJ (ONJ) co-chairs Michele Siekerka and Tom Bracken spoke before a group of business leaders this morning at Raritan Valley Community College in Branchburg, touting “ONJ’s Plan for an Affordable New Jersey” – or what might also be termed a proposed state “economic master plan.”
ONJ’s overall mission is to “rebuild and maintain an environment that encourages and supports job creation, business opportunity and an affordable New Jersey for all residents”; the specific goal of “ONJ’s Plan for an Affordable New Jersey” is to “lead the peer Northeast states in job growth and median wage growth.”
The plan’s subsections are organized in categories ranging from establishing a New Jersey Economic Development and Advisory Council and addressing fiscally challenged and outdated legacy systems, to stimulating job growth.
Siekerka, who is also president and CEO of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA), spoke about the plan’s specific proposal for a moratorium on any new taxes, fees, costs, and government actions that affect New Jersey’s job creators for two years.
She said, “With all of the mandates that have been put on New Jersey businesses, [they] need predictability and reliability – and time to plan.”
Bracken, who is also president and CEO of The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, said of the plan, “… it is very doable.”
He added, “It’s things you’ve heard and read about. All we are saying is, ‘Let’s start to address it.’ If we address just one or two of [the issues], that’s progress. If we address 10 of them, that’s more progress. But, the fact is we have to start addressing these things, or, economically, we are not going to improve. And if we don’t improve, all bets are off.”
With wide-ranging audience participation, Siekerka and Bracken repeatedly named the broad challenges facing New Jersey – including, but not limited to: high taxes for all residents and businesses as well as meta-concerns such as the state’s medical and pension liability woes.
They also highlighted the state’s many assets “which should be leveraged,” including its strong infrastructure and proximity to large cities and “shipping hubs”; the state’s highly ranked education system and quality of life; and its notable “well-educated” labor pool.
Siekerka said, “There are ways to reform for the future that we just need to do – like yesterday.”
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