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Chamber Pres. Optimistic About Business Climate for 2014

1-29-14

During the last elections, New Jersey voted to increase the minimum wage. New Jersey Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Bracken told NJTV News Managing Editor Mike Schneider that he and the Chamber of Commerce did not oppose the increase of the minimum wage, but to the other stipulations surrounding the increase.

“We weren’t opposed to increase the minimum wage last year. We were opposed to the CPI [consumer price index] and the constitutional link,” said Bracken, referring to the automatic increases built in.

During President Obama’s State of the Union speech, he mentioned possibly raising the minimum wage around the country to $10.10. Bracken said that if the minimum wage increases around the country it would not impact New Jersey’s competitiveness, but it would raise the cost of doing business in every state.

If the government were to mandate the increase nationwide, Bracken said that he does not know how the CPI would link into the increase but that the base would be set equally for everyone.

Since the increase to the minimum wage in New Jersey, Bracken said that he has not seen anything that would hurt the state at the moment and that the effect would be felt over time.

“It’s only been a month and I’m sure that the full impact of that is not going to be felt in the near terms,” said Bracken. “It’s going to be felt over time. We’ve said with many of these anti-business pieces of legislation, it’s the cumulative impact of all of them which continues to mount. That’s going to be a problem.”

Bracken also worries about Newark and Jersey City officials voting to mandate paid sick leave.

During the State of the Union address, the president talked about businesses and minimum wage. Bracken said that he does not think the country is drifting toward class warfare but that the president went just short of demonizing businesses by saying that they are doing well along with the stock market and that the middle market income is not. Bracken said that business is what drives the country, as well as New Jersey.

As for how business will do in 2014, Bracken says that he is optimistic for the country and New Jersey and that there is a lot of positivity in the business community. The state had momentum prior to Hurricane Sandy and that momentum is starting to pick up again, he said. According to Bracken, the state has an issue to overcome so people can get back to focusing on New Jersey and businesses.

Bracken said that businesses are prepared to grow and expand and that executives are looking favorably at 2014.

“I think we’ve been getting better and better,” said Bracken. “We were making progress and any time you’re making progress, people feel good and we just need to continue to do more for business to keep that momentum going and that very positive attitude going.”