It’s good to be the nominee – a role Jack Ciattarelli has played for almost two years now – because you always have the opportunity to offer the opposite point of view.
After a much tighter-than-expected gubernatorial race last November, Ciattarelli — already an announced Republican candidate for governor in 2025 — remains an active participant on the networking scene.
He was happy to attend the ReNew Jersey Business Summit this week, talking about one of his favorite issues: helping business owners.
“We need to send a clear and strong message about the importance of the business community,” he said Thursday morning. “We want to hear their concerns. And everyone wants to change Jersey’s business climate, we’re all sick of being ranked year after year as the worst place in the country to do business.
“So an event like this leads to discussions that will hopefully change that.”
To be fair, New Jersey is no longer ranked last — or near the bottom of many economic rankings.
As Governor Phil Murphy correctly pointed out on Wednesday — during his keynote address — the state’s GDP numbers appear to be heading in the right direction. So did the unemployment rate, which fell to 4.2% on Thursday.
Murphy spoke of an increase in venture capital dollars and how the state got its first credit upgrades in decades.
Ciattarelli had none.
“We all expect him to brag about stats and say this and that about how good New Jersey is,” he said. “But one thing you can’t do to this audience is try to fool them.
“You talk to anybody who’s here in their area, they’ll tell you about different regulations or different situations that make New Jersey almost impossible to do business. And these are the things that we need to fix.
“What I really think the governor should have done in his speech is talk about the challenges we face in New Jersey. One thing you don’t want to do with this crowd is make it look like everything is perfect here in New Jersey. It’s not.”
Ciattarelli was quick to point out that the state still has the highest corporate tax rate in the nation — and one of the highest property tax rates.
You will hear him talk about it for the next three years. That’s the plan, at least.
“Luckily, invitations have continued to come in, allowing me to go out and talk to groups all over the state,” he said. “I will just continue to focus on the two things that plague the state and hold back every business and every citizen: the property tax crisis and the business climate crisis.
“We can solve the first with a new school funding formula, and we can solve the second with significant reforms to our tax code. And that’s what people want to see.