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No. 8: Stephen Sweeney

Manufacturing Power 50

Senate President Stephen Sweeney at NJBIZ offices, Aug. 28, 2018.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney at NJBIZ offices, Aug. 28, 2018. – AARON HOUSTON

The Senate president was a driving force behind the Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act, which provides $500 million for the expansion and improvements of facilities at K-12, community college and vocational schools across the state. The Third District Democrat was also one of the lawmakers credited with the creation of the Manufacturing Caucus, jointly chaired by a Republican and Democrat, to craft legislation based on the input of manufacturers.

“From the manufacturing caucus, we realize there’s a lot of jobs that are going unfilled because people aren’t trained to do them,” Sweeney said at an October 2018 news conference during which he urged voters to approve the bond issue. “Then … we find out that there’s 17,000 kids each year that can’t get into vocational school,” he added.

Vocational school, Sweeney argues, is not a “dirty word” but rather a path to a fulfilling and well-paying career for hundreds of thousands of residents.

“I can tell you that as an ironworker, union ironworker, it’s OK to be a union ironworker, welder, plumber, electrician, carpenter – they make pretty good careers, they make pretty good livelihoods.”

A self-described conservative Democrat, Sweeney has been a major advocate of lower taxes and reduced business regulations, which he says have scared away businesses.

That stance often puts him at odds with Gov. Phil Murphy, who has often pushed for “tax fairness” in the form of a millionaire’s tax, and various fees on opioid and gun manufacturers. All of those, which have been opposed by the business community, have been non-starters with Sweeney.

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