Greater Atlantic City Chamber President Michael Chait’s Testimony at the Assembly Budget Committee on March 29, 2023:

Chairwoman Marin and members of the committee, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you today.  My name is Michael Chait and I am the president of the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce.  Our Chamber directly represents 500 businesses and organizations in Atlantic County.

We recognize that balancing a budget for a state as large and diverse as New Jersey with all the opportunities and challenges it faces is not an easy task. This is particularly true as our communities continue to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Governor Murphy’s 2024 Budget proposal is a step in the right direction as it improves public services and will stimulate the economy.

As the Legislature works to complete this budget, we want to call your attention to a few key areas in the proposed budget.

The first is the $100 million Boardwalk fund.  The Atlantic City Restart and Recovery Working Group, created by the administration during the pandemic,  prioritized the rebuilding and redevelopment of the Boardwalk.  The Boardwalk is, more than any other single feature, the symbol of Atlantic City to the world – it is truly iconic. It is currently in an advanced state of disrepair.  The Boardwalk’s current condition creates challenges to attract large scale activities and events that bring millions of people and provide enormous economic impact.  The Visit Atlantic City Airshow is an example of the economic impact of large scale events at the single day event generates more than $60 million in impact and an estimated $3 million in state and local tax revenue. The event is at risk because we are unable to cross the Boardwalk with certain vehicles, thus increasing costs significantly. Our State’s Boardwalks are some of the crown jewels of the State and we must make every effort to protect and enhance our greatest assets.

The second line item I would like to bring to your attention is the 2.5% Corporate Business Tax surcharge that expires at the end of 2023.  The surcharge was supposed to be a temporary increase in 2018 but it was extended in 2021.  According to the Tax Foundation, a leading independent tax policy nonprofit, as of January 1, 2023, New Jersey has the highest marginal corporate income tax rate in the country.  New Jersey will remain one of the five highest states in the country even with the 2.5% surcharge removed.  The sunsetting of this tax will provide some relief during a time of economic uncertainty.  We are incredibly appreciative of the administration recognizing that the elimination will make New Jersey more competitive and are highly supportive.

Thirdly, I would like to strongly encourage a sense of urgency in sheltering the unsheltered while providing access to services. According to the 2022 New Jersey Point-In-Time Count, Atlantic County has the 4th highest percentage of unsheltered homeless persons and the 6th highest percentage of chronic homeless persons.  Currently, there is not a transitional housing facility in Atlantic County.  A solution for transitional housing and accessible services is needed as part of a comprehensive and collaborative effort to seek-out and treat those that are in need.

It takes a long time to build a reputation as a clean, safe city, and a short time to lose it.  A vibrant community is a safe community. A broadly successful resort town provides an environment in which visitors feel safe to explore.

We urge this committee to give careful consideration to support regions such as Atlantic City and its surrounding municipalities that have the services in place, but no facility to house and care for the most vulnerable.

And finally, according to the 2021 Economic Impact of Tourism Impact in New Jersey Study, Atlantic County entertains more than 20 million visitors per year, which is 21% share of the state and almost double that of the next closest County.  More than $811 million dollars are generated in state and local tax, which is almost 18% of total state and local tax collected as it relates to tourism in New Jersey.  Most of these visitors come to Atlantic City.  In 2023, Atlantic City will host the National Governors’ Conference and the first Annual North2Shore event.  This is our opportunity to showcase New Jersey to key stakeholders and influencers.  The road conditions and wayfinding signage in the city are in desperate need of repair and replacement. We urge you to provide an allocation either in the current year’s budget or in next year’s budget to make these repairs and replace outdated signage.

The Greater Atlantic City Chamber is strongly committed to growing the local economy.  We value your leadership and the difficult decisions you are having to make.  We stand ready to partner with you to develop and implement an effective strategy to appropriately address the rapidly evolving economic needs of our State.  Thank you for your consideration.