The N.J. Business & Industry Association recently released its comprehensive plan to improve the business climate in the state, which recommends 100 specific actions on dozens of topics arranged under three broad goals.

If that seems like an awful lot, perhaps a lot is needed to move New Jersey out of its perennial basement spot in the Tax Foundation’s ranking of state business climates.

The Vision for a Better Business Climate 2012-2013 was developed by hundreds of members working on 11 policy committees. The NJBIA represents 21,000 member companies with 1.1 million employees.

The broad goals of the blueprint are reducing the cost of doing business, creating jobs and growing the economy, and streamlining government processes.

The recommended work toward these goals and the examples of actions NJBIA supports are sometimes very specific, other times vague enough to raise doubts about the clarity and wisdom of the suggested path.

Reducing taxes, fees, health care costs, state mandates and energy costs would all help cut the cost of doing business.

So NJBIA supports “reducing tax rates across the board, including the gross income tax and the corporate business tax.”

And it’s in favor of accountable care organizations, improving health information technology, and shifting to a health care system that rewards quality outcomes and not quantity of care.

Whenever possible, the state should follow federal rules and regulations to make compliance easier, the association urges, warning against workplace mandates that make the state less competitive. Singled out as examples of that are the state’s paid family leave program (only one other state has it) and disability insurance program (also in five other states).

The NJBIA says, “In general, public-sector benefits should not exceed those available to workers in the private sector,” so among its approaches for streamlining the government is a section on reform of government worker benefits.

Several changes are urged, including:

n increasing the retirement age for public employees

n requiring public employees to contribute more toward their health care

n and phasing out the defined-benefit pension system for public employees in favor of a defined-contribution plan more often used in the private sector

The blueprint might seem like a corporate plan for a smaller, less costly government, but there’s one area in which the vision is clearly of an expanded state government: incentive programs for business.

Lots of existing and possible government help for business is recommended.

Among such subsidies: “greater financial incentives to builders for real estate development”; “tax incentives for specific industry areas such as life sciences, manufacturing, technology and health care”; and, of course, “broadening incentive programs for both the retention and creation of jobs.”

Even the report itself admits that government economic development has a questionable record: “While instituted with good intentions, the prior State Development and Redevelopment Plan never fully achieved its goal of effectively targeting growth.”

Yet support for the next such effort, “the new State Strategic Plan,” is undiminished, and the NJBIA says “New Jersey should use targeted incentives to encourage business investment and job creation.”

Really? I thought one of the functions of the market was to best allocate business investment and create jobs.

Top local shoppers

Julie Miner, of Cape May Court House, apparently can shop and never drop.

She again won the Cape May County Chamber of Commerce’s shop local contest, visiting 80 stores in the county this season.

Bonnie Lynch, also of Cape May Court House, won the second annual contest’s category for most municipalities shopped, with seven: Sea Isle City, Avalon, Stone Harbor, Ocean City, Woodbine, Dennis Township and Middle Township.

Perhaps there’s an advantage for contestants centrally located in the county. Three of the other four winners also live in Middle Township.

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