For New Jersey business and economic news, history will show 2017 to be a year of challenges and victories for the outgoing Christie Administration and a year of optimism and skepticism for the incoming Murphy administration. Sprinkle in some national stories (federal tax reform, Amazon) and their potential impacts on the Garden State, and 2017 shaped up to be quite an interesting year. Here are 10 stories NJBIA to be the found most noteworthy for New Jersey’s business community.

  1. Phil Murphy elected as Governor: The Boston-raised, former U.S. Ambassador to Germany campaigned on bringing a “stronger and fairer” economy to New Jersey, and won handily over Republican opponent Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno. His progressive agenda includes a millionaire’s tax, the legalization of marijuana and a $15 minimum wage to great economic growth, creating considerable apprehension among New Jersey employers in 2018. Murphy, however, is also a strong advocate for workforce development and aims to reboot the innovation and infrastructure economies in the state.
  1. Christie signs New Jersey budget to end 3-day budget shutdown: There were plenty of fireworks leading up to the 4th of July weekend this year, as a bitter feud between the governor and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto over companion legislation to the state budget led to a sharp impasse and government shut down. Ultimately, a $34.7 billion budget that included $300 million in Democratic spending priorities and called for Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield to submit annual audits and put a cap on its reserves was signed in the wee hours of July 4.
  1. Federal tax reform impacts on New Jersey: Despite the unwavering support of Congressman Tom MacArthur, there are many New Jersey economists, pundits, politicians, businesses, associations and residents who are greatly concerned about the GOP tax bill, also known as H.R. 1. Corporate tax rates will be slashed, top tax rates for families and individuals will decrease and the Child Tax Credit will double. But most experts in and out of the Garden State see high-taxed New Jersey as a big loser in the overhaul with a $10,000 collective cap on state and local income tax and property tax deductions.
  1. NJ makes pitch for Amazon: New Jersey dove headfirst into the frenzied pool of states and cities vying to land as home for Amazon’s HQ2 – and made one of the biggest splashes. In October, Gov. Christie, joined U.S. Sen. Cory Booker and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka to announce an offer of $7 billion in state and local tax breaks should Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos decide to land in Newark. Amazon is expected to make a decision on its HQ2 home in early 2018.
  1. NJ’s jobless rate falls to 16-year-low: New Jersey’s unemployment rate held at 4.1 percent from April through June this year, compared to 5.1 percent a year earlier and nearly twice that when Gov. Christie took office in 2010. Christie heralded the news by saying, “What I’d suggest to you is that Republican policies of the economy work – and they are working not just in our state but in some neighboring states.”
  1. Hard Rock Hotel and Casino comes to Atlantic City: 2017 marked the second straight year of annual growth for Atlantic City, after nine consecutive years of decline. Last April’s announcement that the Hard Rock Café will fill the former Trump Taj Mahal site means visitors will now have a huge, everyday marquee destination to consider – instead of another weekend hot spot. The $375 million facelift for the Hard Rock also meant 1,000 construction jobs and 3,000 permanent jobs for an anticipated summer, 2018 opening.
  1. Christie CV’s bill expanding state’s paid family leave program: A bill that would have increased the eligibility period for family leave insurance from 6 to 12 weeks and raised the cap on reimbursements received was conditionally vetoed by the governor in July. Christie cited the bill as a “costly expansion” that would place an increased burden on taxpayers and business owners. Sponsors of the bill said they would try again to expand the program under a new governor. Phil Murphy said he would support that effort.
  1. Completion of the Bayonne Bridge Raising: After an inauspicious start to the $1.6 billion project raising project in 2013, the Port Authority’s Bayonne-Bridge raising project started allowing the world’s largest container ships to reach Port Newark-Elizabeth this year – months ahead of schedule. The important effort makes the Port Authority ports more competitive by allowing huge ships from Asia, now traversing through a recently widened Panama Canal, to bring goods to the region.
  1. Affordability Summit: Hundreds of New Jersey business leaders and residents joined in September for Opportunity NJ’s first Affordability Summit to help propose an agenda for affordability for the next governor. Following presentations by the state’s top business minds, attendees took part in brainstorming sessions centered on tax reform, welfare development and jobs, regulation reform and infrastructure. The priorities developed by New Jersey’s business community where then synthesized and distributed to Gov.-elect Murphy’s transition team for review.
  1. Insurance coverage for substance abuse and addiction treatment becomes law: In February, Gov. Christie signed a new law that extends the length of in-patient and out-patient rehab programs that insurance must cover and pay for under health benefits plans. While businesses had cost concerns for the new legislation, the law made New Jersey the only state in which people with insurance are guaranteed coverage for substance abuse treatment. It also established the country’s strongest maximum limit of five days’ worth of prescribed opioid pills.