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Friday, April 12, 2024

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At Chamber Lunch, Testa Raps Trenton for Ignoring South Jersey

Jerry Fitzpatrick
State Sen. Michael Testa spoke to the Lower Township Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, March 12, giving a legislative update. Testa stressed the difficulty of getting attention for Cape May County from state government in Trenton.

By Christopher South

DIAMOND BEACH – Cape May County’s elected officials often point out that the county is at the far end of the state and most times gets the short end of the stick from Trenton.

The story was no different on March 12, when state Sen. Michael Testa spoke at the Lower Township Chamber of Commerce lunch.

“Under the gold dome in Trenton they forget about how important South Jersey and Cape May County are,” he said.

Testa told the audience that Cape May County sent $660 million in tourism-related taxes to the state, number two after Atlantic County, but gets very little back. He noted that the legislature passed a bipartisan boardwalk preservation funding bill that brought $33 million to the county, but said that the state Department of Environmental Protection is balking at funding North Wildwood beach renourishment.

“I told the governor, ‘What good is a boardwalk project if there is no beach?’” he said. “Each of us knows the boardwalks are our economic engines.”

The senator further described the DEP as being unfriendly to South Jersey businesses. “The NJDEP looks at South Jersey businesses as an invasive species,” he said.

Testa also disapproved of the state budget, which was $34.7 billion in 2018, Gov. Phil Murphy’s first year in office, and which has grown to $54.5 billion in 2024. He said he did not believe the governor’s claim that the state would see a $10 billion surplus in 2024.

“If you have liabilities on the other side, you don’t have a surplus,” he said.

At the same time, he said the corporate business tax is supposed to sunset, and he fully expected it to be renewed.

Testa commended the other members of his team – Assemblymen Erik Simonsen and Atwan McClellan – for their efforts to reach the governor concerning the needs of Cape May County but to no avail, while a French art museum in Jersey City, Centre Pompidou, received $20 million from the state last year and is slated to receive a total of $58 million over three years.

The senator did praise the reform bill that allows breweries to sell food, have entertainment and sponsor a limited number of events every year. He said he went through training for bartending at an earlier time in his life, and it was recommended that when someone had too much to drink they be served food.

Testa said previous legislation “hamstrung” breweries, not even letting them coordinate with food trucks. He said the state was being mocked by Pennsylvania, which was inviting customers to come to its breweries.  

He also spoke about supporting the commercial and recreational fishing industries in Cape May County, which he said are some of the leaders in the state but are low on support from the state. “These industries are somewhat abused in that regard,” he said.

Testa expressed continuing opposition to wind farms off the coast of Cape May County, saying it is still not known how they will affect commercial and recreational fishing, in addition to being a threat to tourism. He referred to the Danish wind farm developer Orsted, saying, “I told everyone when Orsted pulled out not to do an end zone dance.”

The county has predicted it would lose 15% of its tourism revenue due to a wind farm; in contrast, Block Island, Rhode Island, saw an uptick in tourism after the installation of a wind farm. Testa told the chamber members he did not want the Jersey Shore to become a “dystopian” tourist district.

He also highlighted his role as the co-chair of the New Jersey Legislative Manufacturing Caucus. He referred to a sign on a bridge in Trenton reading, “Trenton makes and the world takes,” saying he would like to see that be true again.

The senator also said Newark schools are getting more state aid while Cape May County school districts are cutting sports, clubs and other extracurricular activities.

Testa concluded his remarks by quoting from his favorite movie, “Network,” telling people to open their window, stick their head out and shout, “I’m not going to take it anymore!”

Thoughts? Questions? Call Christopher South at 609-886-8600 x-128 or email csouth@cmcherald.com.

Reporter

Christopher South is a reporter for the Cape May County Herald.

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