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Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Chairman Albert Coutinho released the following statement Thursday as he opened a special Assembly committee hearing on economic development:

“Good morning everyone and welcome to this special Assembly committee meeting that hopefully will be the first step toward a stronger New Jersey.

“I have the honor of chairing this special panel and I look forward to a productive day on behalf of our business and workers.

“To start, I would like to thank Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver for taking the initiative to put this panel together.

“And to my colleagues sitting here with me today, welcome.

“I look forward to working with you in partnership toward what’s best for New Jersey.

“We all know things can get testy here under the Gold Dome.

“And we’ve certainly seen partisanship on display in recent months from both parties.

“Some of it is based in legitimate disagreements on philosophies and viewpoints and what is best for New Jersey.

“But whatever it is, I hope we can all start fresh on this issue.

“We know there are many issues facing our state, from property taxes to affordable housing to health care to education reform.

“We’ve certainly had our disagreements on how to approach many issues, but we all know that the one thing we agree on is the need to create new jobs and reinvigorate our economy.

“Unemployment sits at 9.6 percent, and the Federal Reserve has said New Jersey’s recovery will likely be slower than other states.

“That is not a partisan issue.

“That is not a political issue.

“That is a New Jersey issue, and I know we all love this state and want what’s best for it.

“Let’s proceed with that spirit in mind.

“To that end, we need to find out what state business and jobs programs are working and what needs to be improved.

“We need to hear from businesses about what can be done to quickly allow them to flourish and create jobs.

“We need a creative jobs program that will help lift New Jersey out of this recession and make it more affordable for everyone.

“We have members here who serve on the Assembly Budget…

“Commerce and Economic Development…

“Financial Institutions and Insurance…


“Telecommunications and Utilities…

“and Transportation committees.

“This is a great cross-section of our Assembly.

“I – and I know you as well – hope to hear discussion on many issues today, including:

“Tax breaks and incentives for businesses that can help promote business expansion and create jobs.

“What rules and regulations are most burdensome to businesses.

“Ways to promote jobs in the renewable energy – or green jobs – industry.

“Controlling health insurance costs that burden both businesses and employees.

“Whether corporate governance laws need tweaking to make the state more competitive with neighboring states.

“What federal assistance is available to help create jobs.

“What role can tourism play in an economic recovery.

“Economic development and recovering from this recession is a complicated issue involving all sectors of government and private industry.

“Coordination is critical if we’re to develop a successful economic development plan, and that is our goal with this hearing.

“My hope, actually, is that this will be the first step toward cooperatively creating an innovative economic development plan that will reposition New Jersey as the nation’s leading economic force.

“And my hope is that we will do this together in that spirit of doing what’s best for our constituents, the residents of New Jersey.”