Business Report Plus: GOP tax bill finalized

BY Rhonda Schaffler, Correspondent |
  • GOP tax reform bill finalized
  • Federal Reserve raises interest rates.
  • FCC overturns net neutrality, which ensured equal access to the internet.
  • New York and New Jersey agree to pay for half of the Gateway Tunnel Project.
  • Rutgers raises minimum wage to $11 for students who work for the school.
  • New Jersey City University’s School of Business creates a stock market index to monitor businesses in NJ.

Once again this week, Washington D.C. had a big say in the financial future of New Jersey residents. On Friday, GOP lawmakers reached an agreement on the tax reform bill that all but one of New Jersey’s congressional delegation opposes. Many business groups also have spoken out against changes to the tax laws, too. Tom Bracken, the president and CEO of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, told us that potentially higher taxes would be detrimental to the state, and could accelerate the number of residents and businesses leaving the Garden State.

Two other significant developments in Washington could impact impact your bank account. First, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates. The stock market wasn’t shocked by this, as the Fed has been dropping hints for months that rates will be heading higher. Some borrowing costs will likely increase, such as the interest rates on your credit cards, car loans and student loans. Some mortgage rates also may trend higher.

No one wants to pay higher interest rates of course, but remember the Fed raises rates when it sees improvement in the economy. Remember, it was just a few short years ago that the Fed was frantically cutting rates to try to propel the economy out of the last recession, which was a brutal one. Hopefully an improving economy will lead to higher wages and a continued increase in new job creation.

Second, the FCC overturned rules that established net neutrality, which is a bit of a convoluted phrase that basically means internet providers need to provide equal access to the internet for their customers. Consumer groups are worried without the rules, people will pay more for internet service. Time will tell, and nothing will change just yet, especially since there may be court challenges to this.

RELATED: What would the repeal of net neutrality mean?

New Jersey commuters who travel to New York could be footing the bill for part of the Gateway Tunnel project, which involves building a new train tunnel underneath the Hudson River, among other transit improvements. NJ Transit is proposing that New York bound commuters pay a 90 cent per trip surcharge to raise its share of funding for the project, which totals $1.9 billion.

Rutgers University students who work for the school will soon have more money in their pockets. As of January 1, student workers will receive a raise, earning $11 an hour instead of the minimum wage. Student protestors have been fighting for an increase in wages for awhile, saying it’s hard to make ends meet.

Meantime, students at New Jersey City University’s School of Business got the opportunity to work on creating a new kind of stock market index that is designed to measure the health of New Jersey’s economy. This week, NJCU announced the launch of NJCU New Jersey 50 index, which measures the performance of fifty public companies in the state.

“This index is an invaluable resource that has the potential to inform investors of the tone of the state’s economy and give a clear indication of what’s happening in the areas of business growth and employment,“ said Dr. Bernard McSherry, founding Dean of the Business School.

The list of companies includes Johnson & Johnson, ADP, Campbell Soup and others, all representing a cross-section of the Garden State’s economy. We’ll be watching this index closely.