New Jersey companies want a break

NJBIA’s 62nd Annual Business Outlook Survey, released this week, reaffirmed what to expect from companies facing nearly a year of operating restrictions.

Without a doubt, the majority of the 1,000-plus respondents told us they were facing a severe loss of revenue, they anticipate future losses in 2021, and many will take more than a year or never make up for the money lost during the pandemic.

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Aside from the impact COVID-19 had on our surviving businesses, there has been an astonishing number of comments – most passionately and colorfully phrased – on the attitudes and attitudes of our policymakers towards doing business in the state.

Simply put, they have had enough. And we repeat these feelings out loud.

While our leadership has emphasized empathy and sympathy for our employers, especially our small businesses, during this extremely difficult year, what they say and what they do turn out to be two different things.

Here is a list of the events or guidelines enacted during the pandemic that will hit the elixir of life of New Jersey’s small, medium and large businesses:

• A new government excise tax of 2.5% on fully insured premiums for health insurance plans.

• An income tax increase affecting certain companies filing their taxes through personal returns.

• A corporation tax increase that gives New Jersey the highest tax rate in the country.

• A new law allowing essential workers to be believed caught COVID-19 at work, shifting response costs to employer’s compensation insurance.

• Executive Order 192, which mandates security protocols at a price with no set liability coverage for employers.

• An environmental justice law that guarantees incumbents in more than half of the state additional costs and bureaucracy.

• An automatic increase in the minimum wage, as no exit is possible due to an economic standstill.

In a normal year, we’d hope Governor Murphy and lawmakers understand the cumulative impact of their actions – on top of the high cost of doing business in New Jersey and property taxes already noted, not to mention a bloated budget for FY21 This included $ 4 billion in unnecessary loans.

But promoting these policies and measures during an economic stalemate of historic proportions is simply incomprehensible.

Even now, with more restrictions or other shutdowns putting more livelihoods at risk, certain lawmakers are trying to add more costs to the business through changes to the marijuana law. The amended bill now provides for the use of drug approval experts who are hired and trained by employers to determine if an employee is impaired.

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Most states that allow legalized marijuana for recreational use only allow employers to maintain drug-free jobs, employ drug-testing staff, or self-identify employees, at no additional cost or burden. But again, another effort is to establish New Jersey as an outlier on the back of business.

And let’s not forget the proposed financial transaction tax that basically dares mobile investment firms to take a one-way ticket out of New Jersey and take their jobs and earnings with them.

Michele N. Siekerka, Esq.  is President and CEO of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association

There are now about 30% fewer small businesses in New Jersey than on January 1 of this year – an amazing and sobering statistic. Our leaders should do everything in their power not to exacerbate this number. Instead, they tried to add more cost to the survivors.

All of which is why we are calling on our policymakers to finally stop the madness and request time off for more additional costs or mandates in the New Jersey business world. If not for business reasons, it is for wage and job growth reasons that help us achieve the stronger and fairer New Jersey we always hear about.

In this case, if actions speak louder than words, their inaction would speak even louder. Enough is enough. New Jersey businesses need a break.

Michele Siekerka is President and CEO of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association