Gubernatorial candidates make overtures to business

//September 21, 2009

Gubernatorial candidates make overtures to business

//September 21, 2009

But execs uncertain much will change, or whether there’s much difference between the candidates.Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie spent Friday morning telling some 200 entrepreneurs and executives how he’d make New Jersey a better place for them to do business.

The audience at the Woodbridge Hilton, in the township’s Iselin section, gave Christie a standing ovation, but in private conversations made it clear that the candidates will have to work hard for the business vote.

“If you hired a CFO to scrub your budget and find savings, and he ended up increasing spending, would you renew his contract?” Christie asked, referring to Democratic incumbent Jon S. Corzine, a former chief executive officer at Wall Street firm Goldman Sachs.

Under Corzine, New Jersey is losing business to lower-tax neighbors like Pennsylvania, argued Christie, a former U.S. attorney. He also blasted the size of state government, saying, “We need to reduce and control state spending, and cut income taxes. It’s a competitive imperative.”

But Corzine campaign spokeswoman Elisabeth Smith said the governor “has been making tough financial choices since well before the national economic crisis.”

“He was the first governor in 60 years to cut spending two years in a row. Since taking office, the governor has listened to the concerns of the business community and reformed the Corporate Business Tax, eliminating the throw-out rule, eliminating the regular place of business standards and extending the net operating loss carry-forward period to a full 20 years.”

Besides costly government, much of the problem in New Jersey stems from too many regulations, Independent challenger Chris Daggett said in a telephone conversation with NJBIZ.

“We have to make difficult choices about balancing the state budget while boosting the local economy,” said Daggett, a former commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection. “Right now, though, the problems are being compounded by a sea of regulations that have to be cut.”

Regardless of who wins in November, some business owners at this morning’s event, which was sponsored by the New Jersey chapter of the Association for Corporate Growth, wondered how much change they’d really see.

“It’s a big job, and I think it’ll take years to straighten things out,” said Thomas E. Deller, a business consultant with Fairfield-based Danicose Inc. “Part of any solution will involve letting the marketplace work.”

Entrepreneur Stuart E. Lipkin also had some doubts.

“I’m not a big Corzine advocate,” said Lipkin, a partner with business advisory firm B2B CFO, who is based in Middlesex County’s Monroe. “But a Christie administration might be limited in the change it could bring about in New Jersey. There’s a lot to be done here, and corruption is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Four years ago, “I was hopeful that Corzine’s Wall Street background would be good for New Jersey and its business climate,” said Westfield resident David Rehrer, a certified financial planning professional. “Now I’m disappointed with Corzine. But can Christie really make a difference? It’s a big job.”

But one person can make a difference, Christie told NJBIZ.

“If you’re the governor, you have to get things done,” he said.

E-mail Martin C. Daks at [email protected]