By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent
They braved a morning snowstorm for the New Jersey Business and Industry Association’s annual conference in Woodbridge. Former Sen. Jeff Chiesa told stories of his brief Senate career — getting sworn in by Joe Biden, getting button-holed by John McCain to vote for an immigration bill.
“He said, ‘All right, if you don’t vote for it you’re gonna have to have somebody start your car every morning,’” Chiesa relayed. “And I said, ‘Well, I’ve been a prosecutor in New Jersey. You’re gonna have to do better than that.’ He then says, ‘OK, I’ll personally water board you if you don’t vote for the immigration bill.’”
A panel of legislators were asked about a bill that would mandate paid sick leave for all workers, public and private. Jersey City just passed such a mandate, which supporters say is especially needed in low-wage food industry jobs.
“I’ll tell you where my office is. If you’re sick, you’re sick, and if you’re reasonable I’m reasonable. The fact that the government’s gonna tell me how to operate my small business, in terms of paid sick leave, I just don’t get it,” said Assemblyman Jon Bramnick.
“I agree with John. That is not something that should be decided by individual municipalities. We did paid family leave on a statewide basis, but paid sick leave in individual municipalities is not a good thing for the state,” said Sen. Paul Sarlo.
Lieutenant Gov. Kim Guadagno said she would refrain from divulging anything in Gov. Chris Christie’s three big speeches this winter — the State of the State, the inaugural and the budget address. So she delivered her basic pro-business stump speech, which includes providing access to the people who can fix problems.
“We can’t fix every problem. I would like to say I can always move the traffic light, but we can’t sometimes move the traffic light, move the wetlands. But I think the people in this room especially understand that if we can get to yes in this administration, we do,” Guadagno said.
“I think what came out of this today is a feeling of confidence and optimism in the economy, in the direction of the state. This is one of the more optimistic conferences we’ve had in years,” said NJBIA President Philip Kirschner.
New Jersey’s business community has been happy with the Republican administration in Trenton the last four years. The lieutenant governor told this group today, if you liked the last four years, you’ll really like the next four.