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Crossroads NJ Report Proposes Assertive Policies for Economic Well-being

July 12, 2017
For immediate release

New Jersey Can Do More to Promote Business Growth and to Improve Earnings Power and Economic Security For Residents from all Regions and Backgrounds

TRENTON (July 12, 2017) —Increasing investment in small business and helping more New Jerseyans prepare for and be hired into good jobs must be top priorities for the next governor and Legislature so that the state can be an attractive place to raise a family, start a business, and build future economic security.

That is the key finding of “Promoting Jobs and Economic Growth for All New Jerseyans,” the second in a seven-part Crossroads NJ series aimed at informing public debate in this pivotal election year. It was produced by The Fund for New Jersey, which since 1970 has focused its philanthropy on improving the quality of life in the Garden State by supporting good policy decision-making. The other Crossroads NJ reports cover the state’s fiscal crisis, climate and environment, criminal justice, education, housing and land use, and transportation.

The full text of the reports, as they are released, and other information about Crossroads NJ is available at

The report released today says, “New Jersey faces a future of new jobs that will pay less than the ones they replace,” and adds, “these jobs can be the first rungs of the ladder into the middle class for many people if the state adopts policy solutions that effectively address barriers to employment, and if wages keep up with living costs.”

“For many, the recession is permanent,” the report says. New Jerseyans of prime working age (18-59) often face significant stubborn barriers “in trying to obtain jobs — particularly those that pay enough to support a family.” Many others face such significant obstacles as disabilities, past involvement in the criminal justice system, family obligations, and discrimination. Among steps New Jersey should take to break down the barriers are:

  • Make the minimum wage in New Jersey a “livable wage” by mandating a pay level linked to the cost of meeting basic needs.
  • Give all employees the right to a specified number of paid sick leave days.
  • Improve family leave by increasing wage replacement levels and leave time, and better promoting awareness.
  • Strengthen existing law by allowing employers to inquire about an applicant’s criminal record and complete a background check only after making a conditional job offer.
  • Toughen protections against wage theft so workers receive the pay they have earned.
  • Expand availability of New Jersey driver’s licenses to all residents meeting age and skill qualification, regardless of immigration status.

Policies promoting growth need to consider the reality that small businesses create two-thirds of New Jersey’s new jobs. The state needs to leave behind its current emphasis on subsidies for large, multistate, and multinational corporations, and focus instead on economic development activities that promote home-grown innovation and job creation. Necessary steps include:

  • Create ways to help universities move applied research to market.
  • Propel small business development by organizing investor networks, linking entrepreneurs with mentors, and training business owners.
  • Encourage cities and counties to adopt Responsible Banking Ordinances that require financial institutions doing business with a government jurisdiction to invest in and serve the community equitably.
  • Add small business representation to the state Economic Development Authority’s public board.

At the same time, New Jersey needs to do more to make sure all residents have the skills to get and hold a good job, requiring actions that include:

  • Increase high school and college completion rates; expand state financial aid to undocumented students.
  • Focus resources on chronically unemployed youth, low-paid workers, people with disabilities, veterans, and the long-term jobless to stretch limited federal and state funding.
  • Provide all unemployment insurance recipients with job-search assistance and coaching during the early stages of joblessness.
  • Focus workforce development programs on on-the-job training for industry-certified credentials, and make public funding of community college-based training for the unemployed available only when the curriculum leads to credentials endorsed by groups of private employers.
  • Follow the lead of other states to expand and enrich high-quality, Internet-based platforms to deliver workforce development and reemployment services.

“The aim of Crossroads NJ is to present evidence-based policy recommendations, generated and vetted by experts, that The Fund for New Jersey Trustees feel are sound and workable,” said Board Chair, retired Chief Justice Deborah T. Poritz.

Consistent with The Fund’s status as a philanthropic foundation, The Fund for New Jersey does not support candidates or political parties.