On March 12, NJBIA’s Government Affairs Policy Committee met virtually with guest speaker Sen. Paul Sarlo, Deputy Majority Leader of the New Jersey Senate. Sen. Sarlo also serves as chairman of the Budget and Appropriations Committee, co-chair of the Joint Budget Oversight Committee, and is a member of the Judiciary Committee, the Higher Education Committee, and the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee.
While the coronavirus vaccine rollout is underway, with almost 3 million people inoculated in the state so far, New Jersey continues to face many challenges due to the ongoing pandemic. Over the past year, about a third of main street businesses have closed their doors, and New Jersey continues to face some of the highest levels of unemployment in the nation. Given these issues, Sen. Sarlo discussed legislative priorities, and broke down the proposed FY2022 state budget.
Sen. Sarlo discussed the Path to Progress initiative, and the committee that created it that he led alongside Senate President Steve Sweeney and Sen. Steve Oroho. He discussed several measures which the committee is presently working on, such as school consolidation and local regionalization. Sen. Sarlo also emphasized the use and investment of New Jersey’s assets to close the structural deficit and pay down debts.
Additionally, Sen. Sarlo announced he will sponsor a bill that will extend the deadline for gross income tax and corporate business taxes tentatively to May 15th, following the lead of the Federal IRS.
Regarding recent legislation legalizing the use of recreational marijuana, Sen. Sarlo expressed concern, citing the lack of specification for employer and employee protections. A majority of New Jersey voters are in favor of legalized recreational cannabis, however, the passage of the bill in the Legislature to codify that public vote was a debacle. .
NJBIA similarly supports Sen. Sarlo’s concern, testifying multiple times in favor of specifying employer protections in the bill. The Senator voiced concerns regarding lack of testing and the ability to determine whether the use of marijuana may be involved in workplace accidents, especially in high-risk industries and jobs. The senator also addressed potential conflicts with OSHA regulations, CDL licensing procedures, and federal laws which will need additional consideration. Sen. Sarlo worked with NJBIA to introduced legislation to fix this lingering issue.
With respect to the budget, Sen. Sarlo pointed out that New Jersey has financially fared better than initially expected, as a result of federal revenue that came into the state from both the Trump and Biden administrations. However, despite the positives of the budget, he urged caution and a multi-year approach to the state budget to responsibly use the better-than-expected state revenues and new federal aid.
NJBIA agrees, and even though the budget does not include new taxes or fees and includes pensions and pro-business investments in education and workforce development, the increased rate of expenditure may be concerning in years to come, as the pandemic comes to an end and we enter economic recovery.
NJBIA has testified on the state budget before the Senate and Assembly Budget committees, and you can find a link to our testimony here.