Business Report Plus: NJ business leaders ‘walk’ to Washington

One of New Jersey’s biggest political and business events occurred this week as legislators, lobbyists, business leaders and others boarded the Chamber train to Washington D.C. The annual Walk to Washington train ride and Congressional Dinner, organized by the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, is billed as the state’s premier business networking event and more than 900 people attended this year.

The event was of particular interest to businesses around the state which were eager to learn more about what Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration will do to help spur economic growth. Tom Bracken, the president and CEO of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, said that’s the number one issue for the state’s business leaders right now.

In a speech delivered at the Congressional Dinner, Murphy offered some hints about his economic priorities. The governor told attendees he wants New Jersey to be a “good value for the money” state, explaining that New Jersey may not be the cheapest place to work and live, but it should provide “a basket of advantages.” Murphy said he wants to take a “multifaceted approach to business incentives” and investment, and he’d like to encourage more innovation and support start-up companies. We don’t yet know how much that will cost, but stay tuned for Murphy’s budget address next month, which NJTV will cover live on March 13. Senior Correspondent David Cruz has more on Murphy’s address.

Local governments and the state of New Jersey are catching a break on state pension payouts. The Murphy administration is reversing a decision made by the Christie administration regarding the pension system’s assumed rate of return. Late last year, the Christie administration reduced the rate of return from 7.65 percent to 7 percent. That little accounting change would have raised government contributions by more than $800 million. The Murphy administration says that reduction would have placed “undue stress” on governments, and it will instead phase in a rate cut to 7 percent over the next five years. Still, some experts say even 7 percent is too high. Last year the pension fund returned 13 percent, thanks to a stock market rally. But in the prior year, the fund lost nearly 1 percent.

As a bill to subsidize PSEG’s nuclear plants stalls in the state Legislature, the state’s largest utility is backing away from spending its own money on nuclear energy. In a government filing, PSEG said it’s cancelling funding for capital projects at its Salem nuclear plant. PSEG cited recent postponements of a legislative vote on a bill to provide a $300 million in a ratepayer financed bailout.

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey is sharing some of a hefty tax refund with its policyholders. The insurance company says over the next five years, it will invest $125 million in numerous health care initiatives, including providing members with more access to primary care and fighting substance abuse in the state. Horizon is receiving a total of $550 million due to changes in the federal tax law. The insurer also says it will set aside some of those funds to provide policy holders with relief, but there are not specifics on that just yet.

Some help for those who are trying to sort out changes to the federal tax law. The IRS has introduced a new income tax withholding calculator on its website, designed to allow workers to double check to make sure they are having enough taxes withheld in light of the recent tax reform. We focused a lot on taxes this week on NJTV, during a Lunch and Learn program where we answered your questions. In case you missed that show, you can watch in on our Facebook page.