NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ-The mood was optimistic–at least when compared to past events–at NAIOP New Jersey’s Annual Public Policy Symposium held at the Heldrich Hotel here yesterday, as members of the legislature gathered to discuss the most pressing issues facing the Garden State. The meeting was moderated by Jeff Milanaik of Heller Industrial Parks and Richard Cureton of Whitesell Construction Co., both members of NAIOP NJ. Panelists included Senator Stephen Sweeney, Assemblywoman Shelia Oliver, Senator Tom Kean and Assemblyman Alex DeCroce.

Milanaik kicked things off by asking about the economy, namely what the legislature can accomplish without raising taxes. “It’s all about optimism,” said Kean. “It’s not a partisan problem,” added Sweeney. “We just lost our way in New Jersey, largely due to home rule and a top heavy administration, along with overregulation.” He went on to say that the state needs to control spending, and added that we should expect to see more cooperation between the legislature and Gov. Chris Christie. Sweeney also pointed out that there needs to be a change in mindset as improvements begin to occur. “The chatter has to change. We do have a great location, but we screwed up and taxed to death.” As for the Department of Environmental Protection, Sweeney said, “I would love to blow up the agency and just completely start over.” He also noted that while the Licensed Site Professionals Act is a “great piece of legislation, it’s still fast track light.” For his part, Sweeney would like to see the approvals process move even faster and more seamlessly.

According to DeCroce, the legislature will attempt to work with the governor because the state is in such dire straits. “We are losing 6,000 residents per month,” he said. “And we’ve lost nearly $70 billion worth of wealth over the past 10 years.” He also addressed the DEP, saying “the governor needs to take a hard look at the agency and hopefully scale it back.” He’s hopeful that Gov. Christie’s red tape committee will address the DEP problem.

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