Trenton has had its fair share of quiet days in the past several months. In just the last month, deals have been brokered over hot-button topics like northern New Jersey casinos and the looming threat of municipal bankruptcy in Atlantic City. And yet on other seemingly persistent issues, like pension reform and the Transportation Trust Fund, some lawmakers appear further apart than ever before. So, what’s on the docket for the business community in 2016? New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Michael Egenton recently sat down with NJBIZ to go over the legislative items his organization will be closely following over the coming months.
NJBIZ: What’s on the top of your list?
Egenton: I’ll probably start first with the state budget. That’s always paramount to us. … We’re going to obviously keep an eye on that, and that always has big implications for the business community. We also need to show that we’re doing some tax reform here in New Jersey, the estate tax is absolutely at the top of the ticket
NJBIZ: So much of the discussion around the estate tax has been in connection to proposals for a gas tax increase to help replenish the Transportation Trust Fund. Should they be paired?
Egenton: Those are two key issues that can stand on their own. Negations are conducted by the legislature and the governor’s office. Both are critical issues and both need to get done. One should not be sacrificed for the other. In regard to the estate tax and back to the bduget, the goal is to eventually eliminate it.
NJBIZ: Where are you on pensions right now?
Egenton: We are very vocal about it. We need to all sit down in a stakeholder process and review the issue and find some kind of resolution. That needs to be communicated.
NJBIZ: what are some other areas of focus right now?
Egenton: Health care and the delivery of affordable insurance for our members and giving them the choice of quality and delivery. And of course, energy and creating opportunities to have a sufficient supply of energy sources.
NJBIZ: We’ve also talked in the past about workforce development.
Egenton: I think we need to ramp up our competition and match our skills required by our employers with academia. I’d like to see more students stay here in NJ. I don’t know what the answer is to that.
NJBIZ: No one wants to hurt business, but lawmakers don’t always agree on how to help them. How do you toe the line between supporting legislation and opposing it?
Egenton: we always support proposals that help grow jobs and the economy. And we will also stand up for our members and voice our concern or opposition if it creates undue burden, overregulation and mandates on our employers.