January 16, 2019
Yesterday at 2 p.m., Governor Phil Murphy delivered his first State of the State address just one day shy of his one-year anniversary of being in the statehouse. The state assembly chamber was packed with all key members of state government, including government officials, lawmakers, lobbyists, and other New Jersey leaders.
Before taking the traditional route of looking back at 2018 and discussing goals for 2019, Murphy spent a great deal of time discussing his findings from the recent corporate tax audit. Calling New Jersey’s corporate tax incentive program broken, he said the audit’s finding were alarming and displayed a stunning lack of controls and the workings of a rigged system to work for the favored few. Then, he discussed what could have been done with the billions of dollars the state handed out to corporations, including funding public schools, funding NJ Transit, meeting pension obligations, and providing property tax relief. Moving forward, Murphy wants to implement a new corporate tax incentive program that includes a cap on handouts, clear eligibility criteria, and will focus on investing in high wage and high growth sectors. He said it will take some time, but together we can fix it.
Looking back on 2018
When looking back on his first year in office, Governor Murphy said the state of the state is stronger and fairer than it was a year ago, which is an homage to his campaign slogan. He said he’s seen New Jerseyans struggle and has made, and will continue to make, a commitment to helping everyone succeed, ensuring our state’s families have better, brighter days. In the administration’s first year, they passed a total of 169 bills, which is more than any other administration in decades, and passed four dozen executive orders on job creation, environment, equal rights, and fair pay. Murphy listed off what he considered the administration’s greatest wins:
- Creating more jobs
- Building a better school system with more access to pre-k and tuition-free associate’s degrees
- Increasing income tax fairness and property tax relief
- Decreasing health insurances
- Passing the strongest equal pay law
- Creating a national model for earned sick leave
- Funding planned parenthood
- Safeguarding LGBTQ rights
- Increasing Veteran access to medical marijuana
- Fighting climate change by promoting clean energy alternatives and rejoining regional green gas initiatives
- Passing common-sense gun safety laws
- Bringing unions back to the table
Sights set on 2019
After discussing the broken tax incentives program and the successes of 2018, Governor Murphy wasted no time jumping into what he plans to accomplish in the coming year. He has ambitious goals that he promises to accomplish with the help of his administration, including:
- NJ Transit – currently a broken system, Murphy aims to make it work again for the more than one million people who use it every day. He wants to increase passenger safety and customer service to make NJ Transit the turnaround story of New Jersey by the end of 2020. More information about funding will be discussed in the Budget Address.
- $15 minimum wage – stating that the recent 25-cent wage increase is not enough, Murphy wants to give more than one million families a better chance of providing a successful life and making their way into the middle class. He said the $15 an hour minimum wage bill is making progress between him, Senate President Sweeney, and Speaker Coughlin.
- Adult-use cannabis – the legalization of adult-use marijuana was a hot topic during Murphy’s campaign, but it has seen struggles when it comes to getting passed. The governor is still looking for low-level marijuana offenses to be removed from criminal records. Using other states as a model, cannabis will generate revenue and Murphy will allocate it to where New Jersey needs it most. He also promised fairness and equality to minority communities and business owners.
- Gun control – while New Jersey has passed strict gun control legislation, Murphy wants to close loopholes in current legislation, regulate and track ammo sales, implement violence innovation strategies, and become a global leader in gun control.
- Aging water infrastructure – some parts of New Jersey have a water infrastructure that was inherited over a century ago, causing elevated lead levels. Murphy wants to ensure clean water to every child and every family by updating our water infrastructure.
- Voting – following the highest midterm election voter turnout in a generation, the governor wants to increase the right to vote. He wants to allow 17-year-olds to vote if they will be 18 by the election and give people on probation or parole the right to vote.
- Drivers licenses – finally, Murphy wants to increase the number of licensed and insured drivers, following the model of 12 other states, and create lower car insurance premiums.
In closing, Governor Murphy announced the administration did what they said they were going to do in their first year. He promised to make New Jersey a state of innovation where young people want to start their careers, an affordable state where seniors want to grow old, and a state with top-notch education where families want to live and grow. Murphy’s next big public speech will be the budget address in six weeks.