Murphy’s Technology-Driven Tomorrow Starts with $500M Venture Capital Fund

NJ Spotlight- In major policy address, governor envisions 300,000 new jobs by 2025, says aggressive clean-energy goals and increased financial aid for community college will help state reach that number.

Gov. Phil Murphy’s economic vision for New Jersey includes growth of an innovative, technology-driven sector, and he has proposed a $500 million state-led venture capital fund as a key to investment. With the state’s major economic-development tax-incentive programs up for renewal next year, Murphy wants an overhaul and called on lawmakers to work with him to enact more targeted initiatives that can jump-start growth in communities statewide.

Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive, sketched out his proposals during a major policy speech in Nutley yesterday.

“We think it’s a big deal,” Murphy said of the venture-capital proposal, which is aimed at reclaiming New Jersey’s status as a top location for such investment.

Goals for growth

The first-term Democrat also laid out several goals for overall economic growth, including a push to see 300,000 new jobs created in New Jersey by 2025. He said high-priority programs the administration is already pursuing, like expanded clean-energy production and increased aid for community college tuition, would help the state accomplish his goals. State government would also look to play a role by working more closely with small businesses and using technology to streamline government permitting.
“We cannot allow any entrepreneur to simply walk away in frustration,” Murphy said during the speech.

Afterward, lawmakers and business leaders praised Murphy for putting forward a comprehensive plan for growing the state economy. But it remains to be seen how much of the governor’s economic agenda will make it through the Legislature, which only a few months ago fought with Murphy over major tax proposals. Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex) was in the audience yesterday, but Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) did not attend.

While New Jersey’s unemployment rate has improved dramatically during the recovery from the Great Recession, the pace of growth has been sluggish, and the state’s jobless rate continues to be higher than the national average. Wage growth has also been slow, and New Jersey remains one of the states with the widest gap between the very rich and the poor.

No fan of Christie-era tax incentives

Murphy, who took office earlier this year, has criticized the economic-development tax-incentive programs that were adopted during former Gov. Chris Christie’s tenure, suggesting they are overly generous and haven’t produced the type of economic growth that the state needs. Those programs are up for renewal next summer, and lawmakers have already begun discussing what to do going forward now that the state is no longer in the throes of a recession.

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