Remarks at the New Jersey Business and Industry Association

6/14/05

Good evening everyone. This is a terrific turnout, I hope to see more of this. It will be great to have a great dialogue with the people of New Jersey,

I wish you good health, in the next few months, Doug. I thank you, Phil, for your kind introduction and I appreciate, as I’m sure Doug does, the BIA hosting this traditional kickoff of the campaign.

Actually, Doug, I’m surprised anyone showed up. I don’t know whether you skimmed David K’s column in the Sunday New York Times and his comments on yours, and my, communication skills — or lack thereof. I expected tonight to be a big bust – a no-show night. In case any of you missed it, David’s perspective was, and I quote “Both men are so charisma-free that their televised debates are likely to be as compelling as the Christmas special featuring a daylong close-up of a burning Yule log.”

Actually, I love Yule logs. I think you can all agree, I’ve found that the best way to light one is by crumpling up the Metro section of the New York Times.

Go figure – after such a compelling endorsement for our ability to communicate, there’s five or six hundred people here tonight. Not bad. Thank you all for coming, I appreciate it.

In fact, tonight the room is filled with many of the most accomplished and driven people of New Jersey.

Individuals from business, backgrounds of all sort– manufacturing, finance, retail, pharma, and others.

I even a saw a Democrat in the back of the room.

I know, I know: BIA isn’t partisan. You are about growing the state’s economy and making New Jersey a business-friendly environment.

I’m certain you believe, as I do, that our state’s most serious financial challenges — whether rebuilding our schools, improving our transportation network, or providing tax relief — will only be met if we sustain a strong and expanding state economy. I know, like you, when we invest in human and physical capital, empower entrepreneurs, and create good paying jobs, we lay the groundwork for a strong economic and bright future.

All of us want a government that acts as a partner in that effort — NOT a government that looks at businesses as a problem or a target.

That is why in Washington, I fought for business-friendly legislation allowing repatriation of offshore capital, providing for terrorist insurance, pushing the repeal of the onerous AMT tax and expanding transportation dollars for projects across the state.

I appreciate that instead of fighting red tape and heavy handed regulation, you want an economic climate that allows the companies of today and the businesses of tomorrow to grow and flourish.

Believe me, I’ve been on the other side of the table and I always wanted a partner, not a bureaucratic robot.

After all, you should have an ally in the statehouse – a governor who knows what it takes to promote and sustain growth: a rising tide that lifts all boats – the rowboats as well as the supertankers.

Let there be no mistake: I will be that governor.

Taking on the challenges that we face is why I want to be your governor.

I repeat, I am not seeking to be our state’s CEO to oppose an individual…I’m running for governor to build a better life for eight and a half million New Jerseyans.

I’m running for governor for what I can do — or maybe more appropriately, what we can do, together.

I’m running for governor to lead a state that gives each of its citizens value for their tax dollars, and respects the values that hold us together.

Working together, we need to make New Jersey, not just the wealthiest state in the nation, which we are — but a state that is far more affordable, accessible, and honorable – providing real support for the people and the businesses that are the foundation for our future.

Like you, I understand the challenges that men and women in business face every day:

  • the challenge of gaining and holding the respect of your employees;
  • the challenge of being held accountable to a bottom line, and a competitive return on capital;
  • the challenges of achieving excellence and sustaining a reputation through time;

And most important, I understand the challenge of leading an organization that is committed to providing a quality product for clients and customers.

The lessons I learned in leading a great financial institution, Goldman Sachs, have helped me frame my public policy perspectives.

We followed a business principle at my old firm, very simple: “the client always comes first.”

In public life, the people MUST always come first.

This principle has led me to promote an “affordability agenda” — a comprehensive plan to grow our economy and bring down the costs of living and the cost of doing business, in our great state.

My “affordability agenda” starts with a commitment to economic growth. After 30 years of business experience, I’ve learned that growing the economic pie is a heck of a lot more fun than fighting about how you divide it.

The former is a productive, dynamic exercise; the latter is static and often destructive.

As Governor, I will replace the failed policies of tax, borrow, and spend — an approach that has cost our state dearly for more than a decade – with a strategy of invest, grow, and prosper: a strategy to keep New Jersey competitive in the 21st Century. A strategy that will nurture fledgling companies, upgrade our workforce, and create new jobs.

Promoting economic growth will be my personal mission if I am elected your next governor. And to that end, I have also offered the concept of the “Edison Innovation Fund.”

This initiative will be funded by a series of voter approved bonds to be repaid with state-retained patents, royalties, and equity holdings.

We will partner with our leading academic institutions in this great state and New Jersey’s businesses to expand basic and applied research in the environmental sciences, the life sciences, including embryonic stem cells, nanotechnology, and defense production.

My Edison Initiative, paired with strategic investments in New Jersey’s ports and logistics infrastructure in the northern part of the state and in Camden, and in the tourist industry, can drive high wage job growth for decades.

I ask you to go to CorzineForGovernor.com for the details.

If experience is any guide, growing the pie with new jobs and expanding profits will increase revenues and make additional resources available without raising taxes.

As I said, when I led Goldman Sachs, I kept track of the bottom line, while keeping a strategic eye on the long term.

It is now time to bring that dual perspective to our state’s operations and financial affairs.

That’s why I will introduce “outcome-based” budgeting — where programs are retained based on their effectiveness, not political inertia or clout.

And I will institute capital budgeting and multi-year financial plans.

We cannot expect to make good decisions about New Jersey’s future in a hand-to-mouth, year-to-year budget process — one that mixes operating expenses and capital investments.

That said: new policies are great, but execution is always essential.

We can and we must do better in managing the day-to-day operations of state government.

Already, we’ve identified specific cuts of wasteful spending and inefficiencies. We’ll start with serious reductions of political appointees and public relations expenditures; we’ll institute competitive bulk purchasing practices in state procurement.

And over several years, we can net tremendous cost efficiencies by providing a common, upgraded technology platform for all state agencies and activities.

Reducing spending is a much more practical task than embracing a mantra of eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse – a cause universally agreed to.

Make no mistake – I’ll execute the former while endorsing the latter.

By promoting economic growth with specific spending cuts, we can reduce the burden of New Jersey’s property taxes and pay for it responsibly.

My plan increases property tax rebates for seniors and hardworking families a minimum of 10 percent each year over four years.

I think we all understand we need to provide responsible relief — without busting the budget and sacrificing other key priorities and services such as public safety, affordable education, PAAD, and Senior Gold to name a few.

Our property tax mess won’t be solved by slogans and sound bites by me or my opponent, or with programs designed for television and the campaign trail. Our challenge will be met with fiscal discipline, accountability and follow-through.

Employing sound business practices and making strategic investments will lead to good results, but only, ONLY, if people feel doing business in New Jersey is a fair deal.

I suspect Doug and I will agree: bringing down the cost of government, holding down the tax burden, and creating a favorable investment climate depends on ending the culture of corruption in this state and the embedded “corruption tax,” and holding down the cost of doing business.

In short, State and local government must be about serving the public, not about rewarding contracts or making money.

We cannot attract and retain new jobs or businesses in an environment that tolerates fraud, pork-barrel spending and backroom deals.

I never have and I never will!

To that end, I have offered a comprehensive approach to making government open, honest, and accountable.

  • I will institute a complete ban on pay-to-play at all levels of government.
  • I’ll end “wheeling.”
  • I will stop “pension-padding.”
  • I will establish an elected State Comptroller to provide an independent review of government spending and contracts — again at all levels of government — including, by the way, our independent agencies.
  • I will close the revolving door that lets public officials leave government service and sell their influence to the highest bidder.

And most importantly, I will set a clear and certain direction in the Governor’s office: that decisions and appointments will be based on merit, not connections and contributions.

Let me turn now to one of America’s most vexing problems, one of New Jersey’s most vexing problems, one that everybody is dealing with: the cost and availability of health care. This problem is undermining the well-being and strength of our businesses, as many of you know and have told me, draining the fiscal capacities of governments, and creating a desperate anxiety among our fellow citizens.

I’d encourage all of you, if you want to read a capturing reflection of what’s really happening in the lives of the individuals, the tragic story of Mr. Guido Osso presented in the Sunday’s edition of the Bergen Record. If you were ever to question the human pain and cost of our current, failed system, read that story.

If I had my druthers, our nation would enact, as I said in 2000, Harry Truman’s proposed “universal health care program.” But for the moment, we lack the will.

Instead, 1.2 million New Jerseyans are uninsured and line up at hospital emergency rooms and community health clinics or apply for charity care and Medicaid.

Thousands are under-insured.

Businesses, unions, hospitals, and state governments struggle to meet double digit hikes in health care costs.

That’s why I’ve proposed a comprehensive health care initiative to make insurance accessible for over 700,000 uninsured New Jerseyans — including children who now qualify for KidCare but don’t sign up; extending family coverage to 19 to 30 year olds; and easing the costs to small businesses.

The small business proposal, by the way, is, in part, based on ideas offered by the BIA for reforming mandates that price plans out of the market for small businesses. Again, you can go to CorzineForGovernor.com for details.

Now let me close by saying, I feel a special connection with the people in this room. We all have built a life in our competitive market economy – and we all know that the prosperity of our work is the foundation of a better life for our families and all New Jerseyans.

I’ve experienced that life firsthand.

I was born into a hard-working family — went to good public schools — started at the ground floor of a great American company — became its CEO — and I have been honored to serve the people of New Jersey in the United States Senate.

I’ve lived the American Dream. And I want everyone in New Jersey to have a shot at that dream.

But people cannot realize their dreams or their potential, unless we get the costs for families and businesses in New Jersey under control. We need to make New Jersey more affordable.

When I led Goldman Sachs, its employees rated it one of the ten best places to work in America.

Tonight, I make you this pledge: I’m committed to make New Jersey the best place in America to live, to build and to grow a business.

I will work with you. As your Governor, and I will work every single day to bring reality to this pledge.

Thank you all for being here. Let’s keep the dialogue growing throughout this campaign and I hope into the next four years.

But remember: keep the Yule logs burning.