By tradition the first major event following the New Jersey primary election is a dinner during which the state’s leaders in business and industry get to size up the candidates elected to vie for governor. Tonight’s that night and Correspondent David Cruz is there. David, what are you expecting.
Cruz: Good evening everyone. We are joined by the President and CEO of the NJBIA, the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, Michele Siekerka. Thanks for taking the time.
Cruz: So you have a Republican candidate who’s portfolio has been business development and a Democratic candidate who has a Goldman Sachs background. What are you expecting to hear from these two today?
Siekerka: Well I know our members tonight want to hear about the opportunities for job growth in the state of New Jersey. We have to grow our economy in order to handle the challenges that we have in the state of New Jersey. So we’re looking forward to hearing about job growth tonight.
Cruz: You have to expect some different speeches, two totally different speeches. You have the Democrat who’s calling for higher taxes on the rich and extending corporate taxes, and a Republican who’s talking about the very opposite thing.
Siekerka: So what we would ask is the opportunity to have a seat at the table on any discussion regarding policy in the state of New Jersey. It’s really important that business weigh in. It’s extremely important that as we look at policy going forward in the state of New Jersey that we do so through the filter of regional competitiveness. We need to make sure anything we do in the state of New Jersey keeps us competitive with Pennsylvania and New York which are our number one and number two out-migration states.
Cruz: So what are you expecting to hear from them? Are you expecting what I’m expecting, which is this one’s coming from the left and the other one’s coming from the right?
Siekerka: Different ways to approach the situation. We’re going to hear about tax reform in different ways. I hope that when we talk about tax reform we talk about balancing the equation. If there’s going to be discussion about raising one tax we need to hear how we’re going to mitigate against that tax, just like we did last November with the comprehensive tax reform bill. We increased the gas tax but we got relief on the other side, net neutral for New Jersey residents. We cannot increase the cost of living in the state of New Jersey. We need an agenda for affordability, that’s what we want to hear tonight.
Cruz: I give you credit for being really impartial there, but this Democrat, some have already called him anti-business. Do you feel that he’s anti-business?
Siekerka: Well, I think he understands what business needs to be successful. I think that we will ensure that we remind of what the agenda for business in the state of New Jersey is. I do know he’s an advocate on workforce development. That is something that’s very important to the business community. But when it comes to taxes and tax reform, we will be firm that we cannot increase the cost of doing business in the state of New Jersey and any policy must be considered in that fashion.
Cruz: Do you think the lieutenant governor is on her home turf tonight?
Siekerka: Well the lieutenant governor has been a great friend to business during the course of the administration. I mean, she was the face of business running the business action center. Of course she has many friends in the room tonight, people she’s worked very close with over the past few years.
Cruz: But open minds tonight?
Siekerka: Open minds, and this is what we are asking for going forward in this campaign — a seat at the table, open minds and comprehensive discussion.
Cruz: All right, Michele Siekerka is the president and CEO of the NJBIA. We’re going to have fun tonight.
Siekerka: We’re going to have a great time tonight.