Opinion: N.J. needs a (budget) fix: Sweeney

In an op-ed published in the Asbury Park Press , Senate President Steve Sweeney illustrates the urgent need for New Jersey to address its $150 billion unfunded liability for public employee pension and benefits through the bi-partisan reforms suggested by the Path to Progress NJ report. While the pension fund can go bankrupt, the state cannot - leaving taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars of debt that can only be paid by massive tax increases that would impact every family in the state.

NJ Spotlight: New Jersey's Near-Term Economic Outlook: Glass Half Empty or Half Full

John Reitmeyer of NJ Spotlight writes on the outlook for New Jersey’s economy in 2019, with analysis offered by GSI’s president Regina Egea:

“But Regina Egea, president of the Garden State Initiative, a right-leaning think tank based in Morristown, suggested there is also some cause for concern in her own recent assessment of the state economy. A former state Treasury official who served under Republican Gov. Chris Christie, Egea said growth in the state’s overall labor market is still trailing the nation’s as a whole. Murphy’s refusal to rule out new tax hikes in 2019 is also a concern, she said.

“We continue to see the effects of a hostile climate for business, and the governor’s threat of new and higher taxes creates an environment of uncertainty for residents and businesses,” Egea said.”

Press of Atlantic City: State economy should worry South Jersey more than volatile stocks

In analyzing the New Jersey Business & Industry Association’s annual Business Outlook Survey, the editorial board of the Press of Atlantic City cites numerous factors for the residents of South Jersey to be concerned about for the region’s economy - most originate from state government in Trenton in the form of taxes, regulation and higher labor costs. Opinion: N.J. pensions: State must deal with budget's third rail

In an op-ed published in the Asbury Park Press, Richard F. Keevey, the former budget director and comptroller for New Jersey appointed by two governors from each political party, outlines the dire fiscal straights ahead for the Garden State and offers an endorsement of the pension and benefit reforms offered by Senate President Steve Sweeney in his working group’s Path to Progress NJ report.

Courier News: NJ Senate President Steve Sweeney says it's time to 'fix New Jersey'

If nothing is done to address New Jersey’s crippling pension and benefits liabilities there will “not be many people left” in New Jersey.

That’s the stark message the Bridgewater Courier News took away from a recent visit by New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney to the Somerset County Employer Legislative Committee where he discussed the Path to Progress NJ proposals to address New Jersey’s looming fiscal crisis.

NJ Spotlight: With Amazon HQ2 Not Likely to Land in Newark, Talk Turns to Taxes, Incentives

NJ Spotlight: With Amazon HQ2 Not Likely to Land in Newark, Talk Turns to Taxes, Incentives

Now that Amazon has announced that its HQ2 project will not be coming to Newark, John Reitmeyer of NJ Spotlight writes that some elected officials, like Governor Murphy, suggest that it was an achievement for Brick City to even be a finalist for the massive project, as if New Jersey should be content with a participation trophy. Other elected officials see it differently as a commentary on New Jersey’s onerous corporate taxes and high cost of living.

National Review: Conn. Lost $2.6 Billion in 2016 Revenue Due to High Earners Leaving State

At Garden State Initiative, we’ve researched how the state of Connecticut represents a cautionary tale for New Jersey’s leaders. In analyzing a recent report by the Cato Institute, National Review Online’s Jack Crowe, takes a look at how migration from the high-tax Nutmeg State is shaping that state’s governor’s race.

NJ Spotlight: S&P Notes Progress but Ranks NJ's Among Worst Funded Pension Systems

New Jersey’s unfunded pension liability continues to be the “800 pound gorilla” in the room for our state’s fiscal and economic future. As reported by John Reitmeyer in, a recent report by S&P Global found that, although there has been some minor progress, our pension system's funding ratio is second-to-last among all U.S. states and places dead last for funding even the bare minimum of its growing pension costs. Opinion: Without benefits reform, Murphy economic goals unachievable

In an op-ed published on the website of the Asbury Park Press, Peter Reinhart, director of the Kislak Real Estate Institute at Monmouth University, chair of New Jersey Future and a member of the Economic and Fiscal Policy Working Group, takes a look at Governor Phil Murphy’s calls for New Jersey to develop an “innovation economy” without addressing the state’s ongoing public employee pension and benefits crisis. What about the business tax climate?

In an editorial that ran in the Asbury Park Press and other Gannet New Jersey newspapers, the news organization looks askance at Governor Murphy’s economic policy speech on Monday sighting a lack of attention to the state’s skyrocketing taxes, especially as the state is poised to have highest corporate taxes in the nation, and a lack of specifics surrounding his proposals. They also found great irony in the speech taking place on a date when the state’s gas tax was increasing yet again and a number of new taxes were going into effect.

Press of Atlantic City: Murphy Should Stop Vicious Circle of Gas Tax Increases

The editorial board of the Press of Atlantic City calls upon Governor Phil Murphy to work with the legislature to address the possibility of cascading gasoline tax increases leading to New Jersey having the highest gasoline tax in the nation. The newspaper cites the impact that the tax has had on the competitiveness of the state’s gasoline retailers and the possibility that the tax revenue may be diverted from its intended purpose. Health Benefits Changes Welcome; More Needed

The editorial board of The Record was not very impressed with the agreement announced by Governor Murphy and public employee union leaders that could save taxpayers $500 million over 2 years by making adjustments to the health care benefits the state provides to public employees and retirees.

“…the state is spending $15,680 this year on health care for the average employee and $12,988 for the average retiree, according to figures from the state treasurer's office. Private-sector employers in New Jersey spend an average of $4,747 per employee for health insurance, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.”

“This is progress, yes, but it is more nibbling at the edges, when far greater steps toward a more affordable, sustainable future are in order…This is a start, but more substantive fiscal responsibility must come before it’s too late. Instead of calling the health plan changes a “win-win,” we would call it a “partial win” that will be short-lived if other substantive changes aren’t brought soon.”

Daily Record: Editorial Mischaracterized Millennial Flight

In an opinion piece published in the Daily Record, Courier News and Home News Tribune, GSI’s President Regina M. Egea responded to an editorial published in those respective news outlets entitled “No, we’re not losing all the good people” that was based on a report issued by New Jersey Policy Perspective and researched by Rutgers students, that sought to downplay the flight of millennials and others from New Jersey.

Press of Atlantic City: Sweeney candid on pensions in push for true fiscal reform

In an appearance before the editorial board of the Press of Atlantic City, Senate President Steve Sweeney offered a candid assessment of the main opponents to true pension and benefit reform - public employee unions:

“He said public sector labor unions have made their pensions unsustainable and have targeted for re-election defeat leaders who have sought to fix them instead of just pouring more money into them.

Sweeney’s blunt message to the public unions now: “You’re the problem here. You gamed your pensions, you legislated your pensions, you pushed through things that shouldn’t have been done,” he said. “You didn’t pay for it and you have the gall to stand out there saying, ‘We’ve paid what we were supposed to pay.’ Not true.””

Press of Atlantic City: Deduction Cap Increases Pressure on NJ officials to cut spending

The editorial board of the Press of Atlantic City takes New Jersey government to task over the real reason behind their opposition to the federal cap on state and local (SALT) tax deductions:

“This sort of progressive taxation is much like the millionaire’s tax sought by Murphy and some fellow Democrats. The fact that they’re against it when the revenue goes to another branch of government shows their concern for revenue outweighs that for working and middle-class families.

And that’s the key to why high-taxing states are trying to void the deduction cap. Wealthy people who can no longer write off a significant percentage of their state and local taxes are much less likely to support tax increases and more likely to start demanding that spending be cut in order to balance state budgets.

Working and middle-class families have born the full brunt of repeated increases in New Jersey taxes. They should be glad to have affluent families join them and start demanding that state officials reform state spending to make the burden tolerable for residents and the economy.”

ROI-NJ: Did Economic and Fiscal Review Go Far Enough?

Garden State Initiative President Regina M. Egea was quoted in an ROI-NJ piece by Anjalee Khemlani on reactions to the report released by the Economic and Fiscal Policy Review Workgroup created Senate President Steve Sweeney: 

“What was striking in the report was a lack of a plan of action,” she said. “Recommendations that do not include costs to implement and expected savings, along with a timeline of implementation, is not really a plan; but, rather, another committee report.

“Without a commitment to implement, residents and business leaders are likely to see this as just another report that will take its place on a shelf collecting dust,” she said. “It was heartening to see to the report include the recommendations on health benefits made by the Byrne-Healey Commission, albeit without mentioning their report.

“Unless we are willing to tackle the 800-pound gorilla in the room, which is the unsustainable level of payment of pension benefits, which this report fails to do, things like … consolidation and shared services are distractions that just nibble at the edges of our financial crisis.”