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President’s View: Will New Jersey Take the Right Road? Our Leaders are Facing Tough Choices

by: Anthony Russo

ONLY 121 People out of the 8 million that call New Jersey home are given the privilege

of serving as the leaders of the Garden State—the governor and the members of the State Senate and Assembly—and these positions are coming up for election this
November. We expect a lot from our leaders, but how can there be buy-in when only two out of every 10 registered voters in our state cast a ballot for their chosen candidates.

This lack of participation creates a less-than-ideal relationship between leadership and the people it is elected to represent. As Super Bowl Champion, former New York Giants Quarterback Phil Simms says, “Leadership is earned, and you cannot declare yourself a leader. You must be willing to learn from others, and listen more often than you talk.”

With so few people going to the polls, how can our leaders interpret such silence? What can we expect of our leaders if we don’t communicate with them and hold them accountable? Should they strive to inspire and motivate us? How can we expect to be
represented if we are not active participants in the political process?

Being a lawmaker is not easy; if you don’t give them feedback and try to influence their agenda, there are plenty of special interests that will. Lawmakers are constantly being tugged at from advocates for causes and initiatives that want their time and attention—
and your tax dollars. This is especially true in February, which marks the time on the calendar when state budget discussions begin.

Budget discussions matter to every citizen, the business community and to the state’s municipalities as they determine the financial consequences of our leaders’ choices, decisions, priorities and agendas. For example, late last year—after 28 years—the New Jersey State Legislature and Governor Chris Christie raised the gasoline tax by 23 cents per gallon. It was certainly not a popular thing to do, but they did it. To assuage the voting public, they also eliminated the estate tax and decreased the sales tax.

There will be financial consequences to these decisions, and leading in a robust or prosperous economy is much easier than decision-making in a slow or recovering economy. Revenue estimates are often wrong and budgets get cut, as do programs people care about. Elected officials want to be re-elected, and so they have an inherent desire to make people happy. This has become challenging in a stretched state budget that has an unstable revenue stream and legacy costs from the state’s woefully underfunded healthcare and pension systems.

As business advocates, our message is simple—create private sector jobs and encourage corporations and entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses right here in New Jersey. When you create jobs and when you encourage new investment, you create wealth and a better quality of life for our citizens. For the first time since 2001, voters will choose 121 new leaders, including a new governor, for the great State of New Jersey. These leaders will be tested by a projected revenue shortfall, and a requirement to pass a balanced budget.

All we ask of our elected officials is that they approach every situation and every issue in a thoughtful and considerate manner, and think of the well-being of the Garden State. The Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey (CIANJ) believes that by doing the right thing for our state’s businesses, our leaders will be serving the interests of
our state and its citizens at the same time.

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