NJ Chamber of Commerce Breakfast Tackles Economic Issues

By Christie Duffy

State political leaders sat opposite business leaders this morning over breakfast to discuss some of the state economy’s most pressing issues. Number one, according to the Chamber’s president — a lack of funding for the Transportation Trust Fund. The fund pays to maintain our roads and bridges, and it’s running out of gas.

While leaders from the business community say they’re open to a gas tax, longtime opponents Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senate Republican leader Tom Kean Jr. would only say they plan to work together.

“Our TTF is in serious trouble, and we gotta fix it. So let’s work together on this,” Sweeney said.

“TTF is a multi billion dollar issue with a long-term necessary solution. All that can be done by working together on a bipartisan basis,” said Kean.

Kean and Sweeney stand farther apart on some issues not on the Chamber of Commerce’s agenda but certainly on people’s minds — Ebola and issue of progress made since Sandy. On this second anniversary of the devastating storm, each paints a different picture of where the recovery stands.

Sweeney passed a bill to monitor the spending of Sandy aid but he says it hasn’t been properly implemented.

“I would rather be standing here saying we’ve done a great job, things have moved along well, but they haven’t,” Sweeney said.

A Monmouth University Poll today shows that half of New Jerseyans think the state’s recovery is satisfactory and funds are being spent appropriately.

Sen. Kean stands with that crowd.

“But there are still people who are not in their homes. What about them? Well we need to work every day to make sure people get back in their homes,” Kean said.

Nurse Kaci Hickox is back in her home state of Maine, after being quarantined in New Jersey over the weekend. After becoming the first person to run into Gov. Chris Christie’s policy of keeping anyone who’s come in contact with Ebola in isolation, she threatened to sue the state.

At the breakfast, Sweeney seemed to be on the fence about the state’s new policy.

“The governor made a decision about what he thinks is best for New Jersey. There is a lot of different opinions on that. If someone is gonna sue the state, they sue the state. We get sued all the time,” said Sweeney.

When asked if he thinks it’s best for New Jersey, Sweeney said, “Listen, he’s charged with the policy on how they advance this. Do I think they handled it the best way they could have? No. But I understood why.”

Kean says the state is handling the crisis well. But it was the looming crisis of the Transportation Trust Fund that both leaders were more focused for the immediate future.