By Assemblyman Vince Polistina
There?s been a strange sight in recent months: Gov. Jon S. Corzine and Democratic legislative leaders standing with business groups touting the latest measure aimed at helping New Jersey commerce survive this economic crisis.
It is disingenuous, however, watching them pitch themselves as friends of business after spending the past decade implementing taxes and policies that have driven business from New Jersey. Faced with large-scale job loss, Trenton?s Democrats have had no choice but to take half steps in hopes of reversing some of the colossal damage they?ve done to jobs in New Jersey.
Since 2002, New Jersey has grown private jobs slower than Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut and 38 other states as Democrats acted 103 times to increase taxes – many of which have targeted business making New Jersey one of the most expensive, least desirable place to keep or create jobs.
New Jersey lost more than 60,000 jobs last year ? a staggering figure that leading economists say could quadruple by 2011. The state?s unemployment fund pays out $45 million every week and its rolls grow by the day. It has become a ticking time bomb which could have been easily avoided if we did not have irresponsible diversions from the dedicated fund over the past 10 years. As it stands now, the almost-bankrupt fund will trigger yet another tax on business and a vicious cycle in which more hard-working families would be dealt a layoff.
Recently, Trenton Democrats have enacted woefully overdue measures to improve the corporate tax code and have attempted to siphon money to business to spur growth. They rely largely on taxpayer-funded public construction projects to create jobs.
They have not made the wholesale changes needed so that New Jersey can be a leader of private-sector job growth ? as it was just a decade ago ? and not a state that bobs with national averages, a goal our Democratic leaders seem to covet.
To improve our state?s standing with business, we must permanently repeal some of the onerous taxes Democrats have slapped on business such as a 2.5 percent fee on commercial development that has stymied development and job growth, a 16 percent increase to the sales tax that hurts business and consumers and a tax on the taxes businesses were already paying.
We also must improve the way we treat business and the projects that will help them grow, instead of bogging down proposals in our state?s maze of bureaucracy. It should be embarrassing to our governor and the legislative leaders that there are currently tens of thousands of applications pending before various bureaucracies in this state – applications that could help stimulate economic growth if they were not just sitting and waiting for years to obtain approval.
The state also needs to pay special attention needs to Atlantic City to ensure that we do everything we can to facilitate the 15 ? 20 billion dollars worth of investment that has been placed on hold. The scant resources that the state has must be spent in a targeted way to keep projects moving and people working rather than the scattered, piece-meal approach Trenton has provided so far.
Finally, instead of relying on gimmicks, such as giving a business $3,000 for a hire it was probably going to make anyway, we should offer real investments to keep businesses up and running. The misguided approach taken by our leaders to try to figure out how they believe our money should be spent needs to end. Rather, our focus must be on what we need to do at all levels of government to work together to provide incentives for businesses looking to locate in New Jersey and to provide a regulatory environment that is easy for these businesses to navigate.
Without these changes, New Jersey will continue to fall behind other states, instead of relying on its geography and talented people to become the economic engine it was as recently as the 1990s.
If our Democratic leaders had kept that engine running when they assumed power in New Jersey, we would probably still feel the impacts of the national recession. But perhaps we would not be in such a dire situation where one in 10 of our friends, family and neighbors will likely be sent to the unemployment line by the year?s end.
Our citizens deserve better leadership out of Trenton and I will continue to advocate policies that will help private-sector business create jobs so that we, our friends and families can continue in one of life?s basic pursuits ? having the opportunity of a job and ability to work hard to provide for their families.