New Jersey’s economy is on the brink. Our property taxes and health insurance costs are the highest in the nation, the sales tax was increased just last year, and the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council recently named New Jersey the state most hostile to small business.
But perhaps the most significant indicator of New Jersey’s fragile economic situation is the way residents are responding. A much-publicized study from Rutgers University shows that New Jersey residents are leaving the state at a rapidly increasing rate and taking with them approximately $10 billion in income and $680 million in future state revenues. Making matters worse, a recent poll from Monmouth University shows that, of the New Jersey residents who have not left the state, about half want to do so.
Imagine that: a state in which half of its residents want out. Surely these individuals are not leaving New Jersey to find better shopping malls, late-night diners, or the opportunity to pump their own gas. Rather, these residents would leave their homes, their extended family, and their way of life because New Jersey is simply becoming unaffordable.
These troubling signs should be reason enough for any Trenton politician to find ways to lower the tax burden and encourage business development. Unfortunately, the Legislature is doing just the opposite.
Legislators are still considering a bill that would require all businesses in New Jersey to provide two and a half months of family leave to every employee each year, to be paid at a rate of two thirds of the employee’s salary. Under this bill, over the course of five years, every employee would be entitled to approximately one year’s worth of time off while receiving this portion of his or her income.
This program would be enormously expensive for many reasons, in part because of its ambiguous criteria. Employees would be able take time off due to any "family emergency," yet the term is left undefined. This one-size-fits-all policy would lump all situations together, making the program ripe for abuse. In addition to the economic damage it will cause to New Jersey businesses, the inevitable misuse of this program will also have the unintended consequence of encouraging those businesses to rely more heavily on temporary employees rather than full-time salaried positions. In short, it will wipe out substantial numbers of the good jobs entrepreneurs have created here.
Although some of the larger corporations in New Jersey may be able to cover months of expenses without any work in return, many small businesses in New Jersey are simply unable to meet this mandate, even with the payroll tax on employees that is meant to fund the program. Small companies would be left paralyzed if employees took off two and a half months every year. Even if small businesses are exempted from the plan, the effects on medium-size businesses would be severe. Large businesses that can afford to would be left with no choice but to send their operations elsewhere.
It is clear that paid family leave would have a severely negative effect on businesses, but what does it mean for New Jersey? Make no mistake – employers will join the parade of residents on their way out of the state. There would simply be no incentive for a business to stay here, and even less of an incentive for new companies to come here. The environment for small business growth in New Jersey would be toxic – a wasteland of inefficiency and hostile regulations.
Let me be clear: there are certainly instances in which employees need time off to handle family emergencies. Unfortunately, the Legislature has overcompensated for this need and will force businesses in New Jersey to absorb excessive costs they simply cannot handle. While their intentions may be honorable, the politicians in Trenton are damaging the state’s business climate and over-regulating employers to the point that leaving the state will not be just an attractive option, but a necessity for survival. And that is a situation we cannot afford.
Mike Hennessy, CEO/chairman of MJH & Associates, employs more than 150 people in the Plainsboro area. He lives in Millstone Township with his wife and four children.
#h#Summer Fiction’s Happy Ending#/h#
by Randall Kirkpatrick
I’m going to Positano, Italy * in March. I’ll explain why I wanted to thank U.S. 1. But first, some context:
For anyone who’s contemplated the "upper middle" life (50 plus) career change, I’m one who is able to endorse taking the plunge-especially if you’ve taken a few thousand practice laps before diving in. I became CASA of Mercer County’s first development director in November, 2006. I have spent the last year living and breathing the enormously fun challenge of raising dollars for this wonderful organization that provides volunteer advocates who stand up for abused and neglected children in Family Court.
My practice laps were spent in a few different ways: board member for CASA from 2003-2004, charter board member of Princeton Autism Technology, and a dozen years of high-level volunteer fundraising service for the American Diabetes Association. By the time I joined CASA last year. I’d spent almost 30 years in first advertising and then PR, and up until the late 1990s had freelance written for publications like the New York Times, New Jersey Monthly, and Income Opportunities.
I gave up on the business writing about 10 years ago to focus on upper case Career, which to me meant upping the commitment to the PR profession.
Two things happened: One, the vague idea of joining a nonprofit organization became an overpowering urge. And two, U.S. 1 launched its Summer Fiction issue. I wrote a short story that was accepted, "The Young Jinx and The Sea," and which was later accepted by Gray’s Sporting Journal (the New Yorker of outdoor publications). I wrote a couple of more pieces, including "One Day in Redass," published in the 2005 U.S. 1 Summer Fiction issue.
As the nonprofit bug bit me, so did the fiction writing bug. Before joining CASA I spent a busy few months reaching out to literary agents and literary outlets like the New Yorker and Zoetrope. I hit some warning track shots but that was it. Then, happily, it became All-CASA, All the Time and for the second time I kicked aside the "writing thing."
So on a lark (and honestly, a hoped-for ego stroke) this past October I submitted my application and what can best be described as a mobster fishing tale to the prestigious Sirenland writing conference. Right after Christmas an E-mail came reminding me that the deposit for the conference was due in two days, which further caused me to find an unread E-mail from the previous week notifying me of my acceptance.
My first response was to E-mail author Dani Shapiro, who was conference co-organizer, to say thank you and pointedly ask whether there were any writers who were not accepted. She replied that she had personally read all the submitted stories and that I had indeed made it on merit – one of twenty writers selected for the conference.
It took a day’s entreaties from my wife, Lynne, who in a previous life was a Macy’s buyer who traveled to Italy, and the executive director at CASA, Lori Morris, who said, "Just go. You never know what this experience will bring to you and eventually to what you can do for CASA."
So against all logic and reason I’m going to a five-star hotel on the Amalfi Coast (each room has a balcony overlooking the Mediterranean). There will be writer’s workshops, critiques and the chance to meet with a couple of major authors like Shapiro and John Burnham Schwartz, who wrote Reservation Road. Of course, little side trips to places like Pompeii and Napoli may have to be taken.
I have no idea what the practical benefit will be. But at the tender age of 52 it’s about time I got my first passport and attended my first non-business-related conference, ever. One thing I know for certain, though. I wouldn’t be going to Positano if U.S. 1 hadn’t launched its Summer Fiction issue. So, thank you.
* Positano bites deep. It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone. – John Steinbeck