While President Trump expresses his ideas for growing the nation’s economy, New Jersey policy makers are listening, not only to Trump’s promises but to their constituent’s responses.

“The connection is that the outcome of politics in Washington doesn’t just affect the policy makers here, it affects the electorate here, and that electorate affects policy makers,” says Benjamin Dworkin, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University.

Dworkin will speak about Washington’s potential impacts on New Jersey’s business environment at a MIDJersey Chamber of Commerce panel discussion with Dworkin and Patrick Murray, director of Monmouth University Polling Institute.

The event takes place Tuesday, March 14, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Trenton Country Club in Ewing. The cost is $40, $55 for non-members. Register at www.midjerseychamber.org or 609-689-9960.

One of the biggest challenges facing the business community is uncertainty over the final outcomes of the new administration’s proposals, Dworkin says. Other challenges include eventual policy changes that could have both positive and negative effects, and contrasts between federal and state policies.

“For example, we have several hundred-thousand people covered by the Affordable Care Act in New Jersey. But we’re not quite sure what repeal and replace is going to mean just yet. Another issue is enforcement of immigration executive orders.”

Other areas that would affect the business climate in New Jersey include trade, business tax rates, environmental policies, and infrastructure.

If we end up in significant trade wars with other countries because of new tariffs, it is likely to reduce the amount of tonnage coming into New Jersey’s Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal and other American ports. Companies making products outside the country will have to decide whether to pay the tax or not ship to the U.S., he says.

Lowering the corporate income tax rate to 15 percent will, of course, be welcomed by businesses. But, Dworkin cautions, the lower rate comes at a cost. For example, smaller tax revenues could result in fewer tuition aid grants, thus reducing the pool of college-educated workers. If money needed for infrastructure is cut back, businesses could see an increase in vehicle repair costs resulting from pot holes not being fixed.

Rolling back federal environmental regulations is supported by Trump as a solution to help industries cut costs and red tape. But, says Dworkin, that does not necessarily mean a corresponding roll back at the state level. Regulations that New Jersey elected officials have voted for will remain in place as of now.

Infrastructure investment has bi-partisan support, Dworkin says. Companies want to be here because New Jersey is located within four hours of 100 million people. National investments in infrastructure, to the degree that they are in New Jersey, will have a huge positive impact on the state, not just for companies that get the work, but for the overall economic climate.

In spite of high costs, companies conduct their business here because of its central location. Therefore, we need top-level infrastructure. “We’re talking about potentially a trillion-dollar infrastructure investment,” Dworkin says, “but the details are not available yet as to who’s paying that trillion dollars.”

As director of the Rebovich Institute since 2008, Dworkin integrates his fascination with New Jersey politics with his passion for working with students. “I love everything about what I do. I am engaged with the students daily, teaching, training, guiding them in their careers, so that’s a wonderful opportunity to make a real difference.”

For students interested in exploring a career in politics, Dworkin recommends internships. He tells his students, no matter what they do, politics will interact with their lives. For example, if you go into your parents’ dry-cleaning business, who do you think regulates the chemical you use to remove stains? It’s the government.

Politics affects your life in ways you might not think about, he says. Perhaps you have a child with special needs, and you’re worried about their needs being addressed in school or you’re concerned about people loitering on your street or you want more hours at the library. Addressing any of these things requires government action, he says.

Dworkin finds that students who take internships in politics emerge as leaders and engaged citizens because they gain an understanding of how the state works and how politics and government intersect with public policy. You can read about these things in a book, but that doesn’t substitute for real-life experience, he says.

The challenge for today’s college students is that internships in politics, government, and public policy are almost always unpaid, making it difficult for working class students to participate. To mitigate this problem, the Rebovich Institute offers a scholarship program that is added to their financial aid package. The extra money makes it possible for students to take unpaid internships. The next bi-annual fund raiser will be the Rebovich Gala to be held Friday, March 10, at Green Acres Country Club in Lawrenceville.

Dworkin grew up in Bergenfield where his father was an entrepreneur developing and selling companies. His mother was a professional writer and, with Dworkin, founded a recording company focusing on Jewish contemporary classics. Today, his mother runs the company, JCC Audiobooks, which licenses the recordings to the New Jersey based company, Audible.com.

Dworkin holds a doctorate in political science from Rutgers and also holds degrees from Princeton University and Rutgers/Eagleton Institute of Politics. A veteran of New Jersey politics, he has experience in campaigns and elections, government and legislation, lobbying and issue advocacy, and media relations. He is an award-winning journalist and a frequent guest on NJ 12’s “Power & Politics” news program.

“I enjoy and continue to be fascinated by New Jersey politics,” he says. Being the director of the Rebovich Institute and speaking at MIDJersey Chamber events gives him the opportunity to share what he knows with people who don’t follow politics as closely as he does. “I appreciate the opportunity to explain what’s going on,” he says.

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