New Jersey may be in a “golden age” right now in terms of the state’s fiscal condition and in understanding and working with the business community, said Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, at this morning’s Meet the Decision Makers event sponsored by the New Jersey Business & Industry Association.
At the same time, Coughlin would not give a definitive answer on whether the corporation business tax surcharge would return and be made permanent at some point in the future.
Speaking at the Delta Hotels by Marriott in Woodbridge, Coughlin said he could not predict what the economy will look like three years from now, alluding to the prospect of the CBT surcharge returning. The current surcharge, at 2.5%, is set to expire at the end of the year, making the CBT 9% on adjusted net income over $100,000.
“I can tell you only this,” Coughlin continued, “the governor didn’t include the surcharge in his budget, and the Legislature didn’t change that. And I am not currently engaged in conversations where that would change.”
Coughlin gave a similar response when asked about increasing the state’s minimum wage beyond $15 an hour: “I don’t see us changing that in the near future, but it’s sort of the same answer as the CBT surcharge: the world continues to evolve. As inflation comes, it is hard for folks. It has put a toll on their ability to live good lives,” he said, adding that a $15 minimum wage means a person is earning just over $31,000 in New Jersey and that it is difficult to raise a family on.
“We will get to $15, but I have not had any conversations about increasing that number anytime soon. It was a challenge to get the bill done, but it was the right thing to do. Will we continue to increase (the minimum wage)? I think we will always continue to look at it.”
He did say that the Legislature is helping the business community forward. “The truth of the matter is – and it’s a little cliché – but the best social program is a job, and that a vibrant business climate is something that makes people and businesses come to New Jersey,” he said.
Various legislative initiatives have resulted in the investment of more than $14 billion in programs designed to keep people in the state and attract businesses here, Coughlin explained, touching upon the $1 billion in state aid delivered to small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, and a package of bills that will: allow successful business owners to mentor entrepreneurs; help startups navigate the regulatory process; and help them find locations to establish their businesses.
“We are moving our business stature forward,” Coughlin said, pointing to a CNBC ranking in which New Jersey moved up 23 places to being No. 19 in the country as a top state for business. “We are not satisfied at being 19, but it does reflect the work that we have done and – give credit where credit is due – to the work of the business community that continues to talk with us,” he said.
The state is also working to ease the financial burdens on families by making New Jersey more affordable, Coughlin said. In achieving that goal, the state is delivering property tax relief, which represents 48% of the current fiscal year’s $54 billion budget. This includes the $2 billion ANCHOR property tax relief program for certain homeowners and renters and the roll out of the STAYNJ senior property tax relief program in 2026.
According to Coughlin, STAYNJ it is not just a property tax cut. “The goal is to keep seniors in the state. That transcends property taxes. It’s all about the other things they do for the community they love and helped build,” he said.
Finally, Coughlin said he is committed to “staying on path and working with the business community.” Presenting it with the challenge of being a cheerleader for the state, he asked business owners to “talk to people – friends, families, and other businesses – about why they should invest in the state and build their future here. It is in your best interest.
“I’m all in because it makes our communities better and stronger. It makes our state better and stronger. It makes New Jersey a place where people want to come. Let’s continue to work together,” he said.
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