There’s a new ofﬁceholder of the 11th Congressional District and she made her Morris County Chamber of Commerce debut this spring at the chamber’s annual Washington Update Breakfast. Mikie Sherrill was elected to ﬁll the seat vacated by Rodney Frelinghuysen, who represented the district for 24 years, and shared her thoughts on infrastructure, taxes, business development, health care and other issues with more than 100 attendees at the breakfast held at the Wyndham Hamilton Park Hotel and Conference Center in Florham Park.
Sherrill, a Democrat, is a former Navy helicopter pilot and assistant U.S. Attorney. She is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy, the London School of Economics and Political Science and Georgetown University Law Center. As pointed out by chamber president Meghan Hunscher, Sherrill was named the most important new woman in Congress by Politico and placed #19 on its Power List.
Sherrill said she is pursuing a policy of consensus as a new member of the House of Representatives. She is a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, who identify themselves as ﬁscally-responsible, centrist Democrats, and the New Democrats Coalition, centrist Democrats who support a moderate and pro-growth agenda and support a balanced budget.
Yet within that policy of consensus remains a focus on the interests of Morris County, she added.
With a $53 billion economy that is the state’s most economically diverse, Morris County plays an essential role in the state economy, according to Hunscher. The county also can serve as a model for the nation, Sherrill added. “Over the last 100 days I have put this district ﬁrst and fought for its interests in Congress,” Sherrill said, citing infrastructure, taxes and health care among those interests.
Sherrill said the Gateway Project under the Hudson River can be a symbol of the beneﬁts of investment in infrastructure for the entire nation. More generally, she said the county’s and state’s failing bridges and roads hurts recruitment of new talent by businesses and there also is an exodus of young people from the state – she noted 85 percent of people leaving New Jersey are between ages 18 and 25 – which impedes business development. “Infrastructure is, without a doubt, an area (on which) Democrats and Republicans can come together on behalf of the American people,” she said.
The Congresswoman told the audience the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 is hurting New Jersey residents, particularly the cap on state and local tax (SALT) deductions that is leading many state residents to pay more taxes than in past years. She noted 60 percent of the responding members of the New Jersey Association of Certiﬁed Public Accountants are advising their clients to leave the state. Sherrill said she is proposing raising the SALT cap and eliminating the SALT marriage penalty. “We must make all possible inroads on SALT and I can assure you we are working on a ﬁx,” she said. Sherrill noted the importance of Picatinny Arsenal economically, contributing $13 billion the New Jersey’s economy. “I will continue to advocate for the continued success of Picatinny Arsenal, even though I am a Navy girl,” she said to laughter.
Sherrill said all Americans having access to affordable health care is critical and said she is working to cut the costs of prescription drugs. She also said laws need to change to adapt to an evolving society and allow health care coverage to follow workers from one job to another. In response to the opioid epidemic, Sherrill co-sponsored the State Opioid Response Grant Authorization Act to get more federal funding to the states to ﬁght the spread of opioid addiction.
During the question and answer period, Sherrill said New Jersey’s Congressional delegation – all but one are Democrats – is working well together for the state’s interest. ”We’re all aligned in what we need to do,” she said. “I think the 11th District can and should lead the way for the rest of the country,” she added. In responding to a question on border security, Sherrill said she felt the more pressing issue is stopping the ﬂ ow of people and illegal goods through legal ports of entry, of which New Jersey has many, and that more money needs to be spent on improving technology at these points.
Questioned about additional federal funding for the Morris County Economic Development Corp. and local economic development in general, Sherrill said her ofﬁce is working on tracking all federal money coming into New Jersey through programs and grants in an effort to help New Jersey businesses apply for that funding. Finally, when asked about assistance for lower-income and ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) families, Sherrill said she believed the nation needs to adopt regional minimum wages to assist these families while also protecting small businesses.
In the antithesis of today’s hyper-partisan political acrimony of Washington, New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-3) and Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. (R-21) sat down together for an amicable discussion of the issues at the 2019 Legislative Luncheon hosted by the Morris County Chamber of Commerce at the Park Savoy in Florham Park. Sweeney and Kean clearly like each other and agreed as often as not during the hour-long discussion moderated by Alan Zakin of Alan Zakin Associates and chairman of the chamber’s Government Affairs Committee. Both agreed New Jersey is in fiscal trouble and cited various solutions. “We need to rescue the state from (its) financial crisis,” Sweeney said, citing unsustainable public pension and health care obligations and over-taxation of businesses. “The state has problems and if we don’t solve them quickly we’ll lose our edge…To achieve anything important, we have to work together.” Kean agreed. “People are risking a lot to stay in New Jersey,” he said. “People are working a lot of hours, sometimes working two jobs…Families are being torn apart because kids can’t afford to stay in New Jersey.” The question-and-answer format allowed members of the audience to delve into areas of concern to them. Sweeney and Kean were asked how to ease property taxes in New Jersey and about shared services. Both agreed the 2 percent cap was a good start and had achieved real progress.
Kean called for a restructuring of the school funding formula to create tax stability but stopped short of embracing shared services as a solution, noting regional education does not always work because people want more say in their kids’ education. Sweeney disagreed. “I think county government plays a key role in facilitating shared services,” he said, noting that small school districts pay 17 percent more for education than larger districts. The problem, he added, is resistance. “You don’t want a shared police department. You don’t want a regional school district…It’s called home rule and people like it.” However, by fixing the state’s pension plan, New Jersey could save $3 billion per year, $2 billion at the local level, and all those savings could go toward property tax relief, Sweeney added. Sweeney and Kean were asked about increased funding for New Jersey Transit and both agreed it was necessary. “We need to make it possible for people to get to work,” Kean said. Sweeney called for improved communication to commuters and better contingency plans to help them modify their plans. When asked about legalized marijuana and the impact on employers, neither senator seemed enthused with the plan even though it would bring additional revenues. Kean claimed other states with legalized marijuana showed increased cost demands on the health care and education systems and no drop in black market sales and said reducing the cost of government was better than raising revenue this way. Sweeney said employers’ rights, for example on testing, would always prevail, although legalized medical marijuana adds other issues. He also pointed to a 29 percent drop in opioid use in Colorado as a favorable outcome of legalized marijuana.
He predicted it would eventually take place in New Jersey and wanted it done statutorily to maintain control over the process. The senators parted ways on the issue of the state’s minimum wage increase and its impact on businesses. “We had some concerns and we’re going to watch it to make sure we don’t lose too many jobs,” Sweeney said, citing exemptions, a circuit breaker in the case of a recession and a rolled out approach. Kean countered the exemptions were simply delayed and that the Murphy administration had failed to consider the impact of the increase on the cost of operating state government. When asked about rising health care costs for employers, Kean said no issue had generated more calls to his office than this one and called for tort reform and continued coverage for pre-existing conditions. Sweeney lamented the approach of President Trump and the Republicans in Washington of simply attacking the Affordable Care Act rather than looking for solutions. “Rather than trying to fix what was wrong, they tried to destroy it,” he said. “And they made things worse.”
When Marjorie Perry graduated college after growing up in the projects of Newark, she told her mother she was going to be rich one day. Her mother told her to get a job at Bambergers. Perry didn’t listen. Today she is president and CEO of MZM Construction & Management Company, Inc., a privately owned construction management and transportation company serving clients from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, nonprofits, educational institutions and others. Some of MZM’s signature projects include New Jersey Performing Arts Center, MetLife Stadium, Newark International Airport, NJ TRANSIT Hudson Bergen Light Rail and Marriott Hotel guest room renovations. Perry has been recognized often for her career achievements, including by NJBIZ as One of New Jersey’s Best 50 Women in Business and as one of the Top 25
Entrepreneurs in New Jersey and in 2018 became the first woman and African-American chair of the NJIT Board of Overseers. Perry recently shared her experiences and thoughts at a luncheon hosted by the Women in Business Committee of the Morris County Chamber of Commerce at the Westin Governor Morris in an interview format with WIB member Leslie Allen of West End Residential. The theme of the discussion was Building Greatness from Within. Allen asked Perry if she had a seminal moment in her journey to success. “I don’t think anyone is born knowing what greatness
is,” Perry said. She told the audience she had wonderful teachers who told her she could do anything and to think big. She became the first in her family to graduate college and never looked back.
After years in the corporate environment – “I was a complete failure because I wasn’t CEO,” she said – Perry started a consulting company and took on MZM as a client. The owners soon asked her to join the firm as a partner. Allen asked Perry how she succeeded as a black female in a white male-dominated industry. Perry explained she has great street wit developed in Newark and never backed down, even following a customer who owed her $500,000 into the men’s room to demand payment. “That’s the survival part,” she said. “No is not an option. I didn’t wake up with a girlish attitude. I would not have survived in construction without that.” Perry also said she had not known racism growing up in Newark. “When I went into construction, I didn’t realize how hated I was,” she said, adding that running MZM helped her cope with racism. “Being black and female can be something you hold on to or can be something for them and you stick to what you’re doing,” she said. Allen asked Perry what message she would give to young people about persevering through challenges in their career. “I got my confi dence through a lot of failure and readaptability,” she said. “Each time I came back I became a force to be dealt with.” Perry also had a message for millennials, who will soon make up more than half the workforce. “You can’t get there before your time,” she said.
“Young people have to slow down and know there will be a dues period…The mistakes you make today will impact you for the next 30 years.” Allen asked Perry for her secret to achieving
emotional intelligence.“People need to be okay with constructive criticism,” she said. “If you have a problem hearing constructive criticism and all you hear is (someone) putting you down, that’s the greatest impediment to achieving emotional intelligence. “If you’re not questioning, you’re not moving forward,” she added.
Please Note: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Morris County Chamber of Commerce.
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