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Sweeney Joins In Panel Discussion with African American Chamber of Commerce

Speaks To Challenges & Priorities of Fiscal Reforms

Voorhees – Senate President Steve Sweeney today joined with members of the African American Chamber of Commerce for a panel discussion on “public policies that are essential to New Jersey’s competitiveness,” including those that impact black-owned businesses and the African American community. Senator Sweeney spoke about the need to restore fiscal stability to public finances in order to afford investments in economic opportunities.

“It is a privilege to join with members of the African American Chamber of Commerce in a working discussion on our shared priorities, the fiscal challenges we face in New Jersey, and the opportunities we have to make real and lasting progress,” said Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “The health and strength of public finances has a direct impact on the private sector. We have to restore fiscal stability to government, reduce expenses and make New Jersey more affordable so that minority-owned businesses and small businesses can thrive.”

The discussions included proposals from the “Path to Progress” report to reduce soaring pension and benefit costs, hold down property taxes, make government and school districts more efficient, assess the efficiency of our tax structure and leverage state assets.  The ability to invest in educational opportunities is a priority, Senator Sweeney said.

“We are one of the best states in the country when it comes to having an educated workforce with the skills and qualifications necessary to meet the growing demands of business and we can be better,” said Senator Sweeney. “We need to work on the continued expansion of Pre-K, the consolidation of school districts, full funding for schools, college affordability and vocational education. But these goals can only be realized if we have the resources to support them.”

To capture savings, the report’s recommendations includes the merger of the high-cost School Employees Health Benefits Plan(SEHBP) into the lower-cost State Health Benefits Plan(SHBP) to take advantage of the cost savings negotiated by the Governor and the state’s largest public workers union. Combining the two healthcare plans will save money at the local level and reduce costs for school employees.

The merger would produce hundreds of millions of dollars in savings for local governments, school systems and their employees, with more savings in future years as additional school districts and government entities rejoin the SHBP.

Senator Sweeney repeated his pledge that the Path to Progress legislative package will not require retirees to pay more for their healthcare coverage.

“We have the shared goals of increasing economic and social opportunities for everyone, including African American businesses and workers,” said John Harmon, Sr., the founder, President and CEO of the AACCNJ. “Senator Sweeney has been a reliable partner in our efforts. Today’s forum provides us the ability to keep our issues in the forefront as we work to achieve continued progress.”

Senator Sweeney also addressed the need for tax incentives to help create jobs and spur economic growth in urban communities.

“Tax incentives have been particularly successful in Camden, where they have created thousands of jobs and generated hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity,” said Senator Sweeney. “We have also seen transformative growth in Newark, New Brunswick, and Jersey City.  This time around, cities like Trenton and Paterson cannot be left behind.”

Senator Sweeney said that he supports the Minority-Owned Business Enterprise Program to promote the participation of minority-owned businesses in obtaining contracts for public work. And the state has to increase minority representation on boards and commissions and other positions of power within the government.

The African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey is dedicated to economically empowering and sustaining African American communities and businesses through entrepreneurship and capitalistic initiatives throughout the state of New Jersey and through its partnership with the National Black Chamber of Commerce.