BUSINESS & ECONOMY

Business Report Plus: Murphy unveils budget

BY Rhonda Schaffler, Correspondent |
  • Reaction to governor’s proposed budget varied
  • Business groups critical of raising taxes
  • ADP releases job numbers for February
  • Toys R Us laying off hundreds of workers
  • Gaming revenue falls in Atlantic City

There is one important question New Jersey residents and businesses should ask following the release of Gov. Phil Murphy’s $37.4 billion budget this week. It is this: Will the governor’s budget grow New Jersey’s economy and spur job growth? Growing the economy is a goal shared by both Republicans and Democrats, it’s how to get there that causes political wrangling. We heard the pros and cons all week. As Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron reported, progressive groups are in favor of the budget.

Senior Correspondent Brenda Flanagan also found other residents in support of the proposal.

Business groups however don’t like the idea of raising the millionaire’s tax, nor are they in favor of phasing in a higher minimum wage. “We have long opposed the millionaires tax because it is an added tax against people who provide jobs and will exacerbate our standing as the number one outmigration state in the nation,” the New Jersey Business and Industry Association said in a statement.

The New Jersey National Federation of Independent Business criticized the proposal to phase in a minimum wage increase to $15 an hour. “Bumping the minimum wage up by leaps and bounds could force small businesses, especially those that hire lower-skilled workers, to cut hours, cut jobs and possibly close their doors,” stated the group.

And the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce says, while it agrees with a number of the governor’s initiatives, tax increases would impact businesses of all sizes. The Chamber pointed out in New Jersey, job growth is lagging other states.

The lagging job growth was also mentioned by Acting State Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio in a press briefing ahead of the budget release. Elected officials in both parties want to make sure our growth is keeping up with neighboring states (and exceeding them would be even better). There will be many arguments in the months ahead on the best way to spur growth in New Jersey. Murphy’s budget is just the starting point.

The latest report on employment in the state came from Roseland-based ADP this week, which showed that 4,200 new jobs were created in the month of February. That represented a decline from January, when 6,400 new jobs were created. In contrast, job growth in New York held steady between January and February.

It was a tough week for workers at Wayne-based Toys R Us, which is laying off hundreds of Garden State workers as it liquidates its stores, including its Babies R US properties. The company, which filed for bankruptcy last fall, was unable to reach a deal this week with creditors to keep its stores open.

Business was down at Atlantic City’s casinos last month, as February gambling revenue fell 6.5 percent. The city’s seven casinos took in $192 million. That included a $21 million boost from internet gambling. Without that, revenue would have declined by 9 percent. Caesers had the biggest drop in revenue, down 23 percent. Only the Golden Nugget reported an increase, with revenue up 16 percent.