From the Asbury Park Press:
New Jersey’s economy, once envied for its highly skilled work force and its cutting-edge research, has veered off course, business leaders said Monday.
To reverse the trend, chamber officials said the state needs to focus on six areas. They are:
Government reform. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, New Jersey state and local officials have the third highest average salary nationwide, putting a strain on taxpayers. The chamber called for the state to adopt wide-ranging ethical reforms and look at eliminating layers of government.
Economic development. New Jersey has the third-highest cost of doing business nationwide, according to Economy.com. The chamber called for the state to create incentive programs for existing businesses, particularly small businesses.
Education. New Jersey has the highest cost per pupil from kindergarten to 12th grade nationwide, according to the Census Bureau. The chamber called for the state to better analyze schools’ performance and publicize the results through a state Web site. And it wants the state to recruit science and math teachers, even if it means paying them more.
Environment. New Jersey has among the most stringent environmental regulations nationwide, some of which change often, chamber officials said. The chamber wants the state to base new environmental laws on widely accepted scientific findings and apply federal standards where it can.
Health care. New Jersey has the nation’s fifth highest cost of family health insurance coverage for workers covered by their employer — $10,168, according to a 2003 study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Chamber officials said the state should reform the insurance market so insurers can provide more options for small employers.
Transportation. New Jersey workers’ average commute of 29.4 minutes is the third longest in the nation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Chamber officials encouraged Gov. Corzine to increase the gasoline tax to pay for transportation projects. Corzine instead wants to refinance bonds, which chamber officials said only will add to the state’s debt.