Gubernatorial Candidates — Leading the Charge
New Jersey CPA magazine asked New Jersey’s Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli and incumbent Governor Phil Murphy to weigh in on specific challenges facing the Garden State, how to improve its economic well-being and what priorities should be the main focus if elected or re-elected.
What big challenges do you think New Jersey will face over the next four years and how would you lead the state to get through them?
Governor Murphy: Our state has faced significant fiscal challenges over the last few decades. Yet over the past three-plus years, we were able to accomplish so much — including raising the minimum wage, ensuring equal pay for equal work, and making the first full pension payment in 25 years, thereby meeting our obligations to thousands of New Jersey families and saving the state billions of dollars. Today, we are proud to say our population has grown to 9.3 million and that New Jersey is the best state in the country to raise a family.
We recognize there is still more work to be done. The challenges we’ve faced, particularly over the past year, have laid bare longstanding disparities that require a strong, equitable agenda to move our state forward. This agenda includes building a stronger economic future for all New Jerseyans through investments in infrastructure, small businesses and higher education. It requires continued efforts to incubate and build new industries, like our clean energy economy, to stimulate economic growth and create jobs. Most urgently, it requires an extensive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic that has upended our state, economy and livelihoods.
We can’t go back to a system that benefited only the wealthy and well-connected. We must continue building opportunities for all New Jerseyans, including those who have historically been left behind. That’s exactly what we’ve said we would do from day one, and we will continue to lead as we always have — by moving New Jersey forward.
Jack Ciattarelli: New Jersey is in an economic death spiral. We lag the nation in job growth, wage growth and fiscal health. Making matters worse are significant structural state budget deficits and billions in unfunded liabilities specific to public worker retirement benefits (i.e., pension and health). New Jersey must become more economically dynamic and regionally competitive. We must grow our economy. To address these challenges . . . After Governor’s Murphy’s prolonged and unscientific shutdown, we must get New Jersey’s small business/Main Street economy back up and running and thriving. We must also ensure that New Jersey’s infrastructure is safe, reliable and able to support, in every way, a growing state economy. And we desperately need a flatter, simpler state tax structure that incentivizes robust economic growth and attracts entrepreneurs, businesses and workers.
What are your top three priorities for the state over the next year?
- Recovering from the pandemic to ensure that every family and every small business has the opportunity to succeed in New Jersey. I especially want to ensure that the recovery addresses the centuries-old social and racial inequities that COVID-19 laid bare.
- Building a stronger economic future for all New Jerseyans through investments in infrastructure, small businesses workforce development, and continuing the historic investments in Pre-K, K-12 and higher education.
- Creating the nation’s leading clean energy economy, including a robust offshore wind industry.
Jack Ciattarelli: New Jersey can and should be a place where people can afford to live, work, open a business and retire. To become that place, New Jersey must address the three crises that paralyze our state fiscally and economically; namely, our worst-in-the-nation property taxes; our worst-in-the-nation business environment; and our bloated and inefficient state government. As governor, I will do all that is necessary to provide each and every citizen opportunity and security. And so, my priorities will be to: 1) make New Jersey more affordable by lowering property taxes with a new school funding formula; 2) create more jobs by igniting our economy with less regulations and major pro-growth reforms to our tax code; and 3) reduce spending by downsizing, modernizing and streamlining our state government.
Do you feel the business environment in New Jersey needs to be improved? What should be done to help small businesses?
Governor Murphy: Our administration has worked tirelessly to improve the business environment, accelerate sustainable economic growth, and support job-creating small businesses in New Jersey. Moody’s has upgraded New Jersey’s credit outlook to positive, and as recently noted by Bloomberg, New Jersey “is one of only seven states with an improving economy over the last three and a half years.” There is still more work to do, but over the past three-plus years, our accomplishments include:
- Unveiling a statewide economic development plan to build a stronger and fairer economy while creating the country’s most inclusive innovation economy;
- Developing and passing a multi-billion dollar economic recovery package that brings accountability and labor protections to New Jersey’s incentives programs;
- Reinvigorating and coordinating workforce development programs through the Jobs NJ plan, including growing apprenticeship programs and connecting worker training efforts to labor market demand;
- Increasing the allocation of Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credits by 50 percent;
- Appointing the state’s first Chief Innovation Officer and enhancing the state’s digital government services capacity through the New Jersey Office of Innovation;
- Re-activating and funding the Commission of Science, Innovation, and Technology to facilitate investments in the innovation economy; and
- Opening Choose New Jersey offices in Europe and India and completing trade missions to Germany, India and Israel.
Additionally, through the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, some 63,000 businesses have received a lifesaving grant or loan. This year, we invested an additional $235 million in small business relief for New Jersey businesses that continue to suffer economic effects of the pandemic, bringing the total amount of aid to $420 million since the beginning of the pandemic.
Jack Ciattarelli: To attract residents, entrepreneurs and businesses, New Jersey desperately needs an improved business environment, especially for small businesses. Simply put, we need to declare economic war on our neighboring states. Having started and run two successful Main Street businesses, I understand firsthand what policies will make us more regionally competitive, especially for small businesses so badly impacted by the pandemic. As Governor, I will create a dynamic economy that will provide opportunity, jobs, economic growth and prosperity. We will no longer have the worst business environment in the nation. Specific to small businesses, we will eliminate regulations that make it unnecessarily hard and expensive to start and grow a business. We will also make changes to the tax code that incentivize entrepreneurs and provide the financial wherewithal for growth.
Do you think businesses and wealthy individuals should be paying more taxes to help fund state government?
Governor Murphy: My administration is committed now more than ever to building a stronger and fairer New Jersey for every family, not just the wealthy and well-connected.
Last fall, I enacted a millionaires tax to further that commitment, an especially critical step given the financial realities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. By implementing a tax on the wealthiest among us, we have been able to provide middle-class New Jerseyans relief through $500 rebates for families making under $150,000 per household or $75,000 for a single individual with at least one dependent child. That rebate put cash directly in the pockets of over 760,000 New Jersey families.
Prior to taking office, I called for sweeping and fundamental reforms to New Jersey’s corporate tax incentive system that drained billions of taxpayer dollars and failed to create promised jobs. Despite the lavish and wasteful incentives, New Jersey lagged behind in every economic measure. I enacted an economic recovery package in 2021 that creates a new incentive system that will accelerate sustainable economic growth, support job-creating small businesses and uplift middle-class families.
Jack Ciattarelli: Twelve years ago the state budget was $29 billion; three years ago it was $34 billion. It is $45 billion today, up 33 percent in less than four years under Governor Phil Murphy. Governor Murphy has also made our personal taxes the third highest in the nation; our business taxes and property taxes the highest in the nation; and, on top of significant gas tax increases, he increased tolls. The average New Jerseyan now pays nearly $1 million in taxes – 50 percent of their income – over their lifetime (the national average is $530,000). The last thing New Jersey’s residents and business owners need are higher taxes. What we desperately need is to restructure and simplify our tax code, eliminate harmful regulations and reduce the size and cost of state government by modernizing operations, reducing headcount, reforming benefits and creating jobs to reduce Medicaid expenses. Only then will our economy grow.
To learn more about Gov. Murphy, Jack Ciattarelli and the other candidates running for Governor, visit the following links: