To The Editor:
As we close the books and reflect on 2011, many families and businesses are not doing much better than they were this time last year. The housing market has seen little improvement, unemployment remains high and too many small businesses continue to close their doors. Yet, I’m struck by the optimism I see every day when talking to business owners and workers about the future. People want, and to some degree need to believe that 2012 will bring a better tomorrow. There is also growing confidence in the Christie administration’s efforts to improve the business climate in New Jersey.Lawmakers in Trenton say they are focused on getting people back to work and improving the economy. That’s welcomed news for me and the members of my Chamber. In order to build a better business environment for companies to grow and prosper the Legislature must enact pro-growth policies that reform how New Jersey treats businesses that invest and operate here.For example, telecommunications companies like Verizon invest billions of dollars in New Jersey and employ thousands of workers, but thanks to outdated government regulations these companies cannot freely compete for consumer business. The market for communications products and services is dramatically different today than it was even five years ago. Dramatic growth and demand for wireless and Internet technologies have reshaped how we communicate. However, government rules regulating telephone providers have not changed in decades. These outdated rules should be modernized to encourage investment, job growth and innovation. Our elected officials are considering legislation that can remedy this problem. S. 2664, the Market Competition and Consumer Choice Act, will reform how New Jersey regulates phone and cable providers and update the law for the 21st century. The bill is one very important step lawmakers can take to improve the business climate in New Jersey as we enter 2012.Earlier this year, the legislation passed the State Assembly with strong bi-partisan support on a vote of 66 to 7. The Senate has been considering the bill for quite some time and it is important that they follow suit and pass this important reform before adjournment.Legislators only have one voting session day left on the calendar. Opponents’ issues have been addressed with assurances that their concerns will be mitigated. The proposed bill would simply allow telecommunications companies to compete more effectively and be responsive to consumers instead of to the Board of Public Utilities. Passage of regulatory reform would also be a welcome signal to companies around the country that New Jersey is open for business. That’s good news for everyone on both sides of the aisle, and certainly for New Jersey’s business community. A bill very similar to this one was passed in Indiana in 2006. Consumers in that state were not only protected, as they will be in New Jersey, but within one year, telecommunications companies invested an additional $400 million to build infrastructure and create jobs in that state. With the clock ticking, it is time to get down to business and enact S. 2664. Let’s kick off the New Year right by making long-needed improvements that will enhance the business climate, attract more good paying jobs and keep New Jersey businesses and consumers connected with innovative products and services – all of which will continue the momentum of the Christie administration’s “business friendly” campaign.
Thomas A. Bracken
President and CEO
New Jersey Chamber of Commerce
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