Yesterday morning at the War Memorial in Trenton, Gov. Phil Murphy and Lt. Gov. Sheila Murphy were sworn in for their second terms. Gov. Murphy’s acceptance speech (video here, transcript here) was marked by a surprising lack of proposals–he said these next four years are the continuation of an eight-year plan– and the assertion that New Jersey willl show a politically polarized country that the American Dream is alive and can work “for everyone.” Education-related items were limited to a promise to continue expanding free pre-kindergarten and community college. High-profile guests included former Governors Chris Christie, Jim Florio, Jon Corzine, Jim McGreevey, and Dick Codey (who replaced McGreevey in 2004 after revelations of an affair with an appointee), and power-broker George Norcross.
Reactions were mixed, with more than a few whispers about Murphy’s ambitions for national office as well as a few digs at NJ’s status as the state with the highest property taxes in the nation. Here’s a sampling:
Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin:
“The first Democrat to be re-elected Governor in 44 years, I congratulate Phil Murphy on his inauguration today as well as Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver. With their vision to keep building toward a stronger, fairer New Jersey alongside a history-making Legislature, I look forward to advancing a Democratic agenda together that makes life better for all who call our great state home.”
Murphy notched a number of self-styled progressive policy accomplishments in his first term and promised Tuesday to pursue additional stricter gun control measures, expansion of pre-K for 3-year-olds and additional funding for K-12 education to take pressure off local governments that enact property taxes. He said the country could look to New Jersey for policies that work, though he didn’t address how New Jersey tends to be more Democratic than the nation.”
“In a few years, let’s come back to this line: ‘I’m not going to be satisfied with just slowing property tax growth. I want to get us to a place where we can begin to see them go down.’
Murphy’s stopped short of pledging to get property taxes down. There’s a reason for that. While New Jersey’s taxes have gone up at slow rates during his tenure — something for which he can at least partly thank the 2 percent property tax hike cap put in place by his predecessor, the recently-departed Senate president and yes, the lieutenant governor — I couldn’t tell you the last time they went down. Certainly not in my many years covering politics in this state. And especially now, with inflation at its highest rate in years.”
“Christie Whitman popped up today on NJ Spotlight News to say that a second inaugural is the time to be really bold.’ By that measuring stick, Phil Murphy was not. As he bluntly put it in the midst of his roughly 30-minute address after taking the oath, ‘I am who I said I would be.’ And we in New Jersey kind of know who he is – an unapologetic liberal, which depending on your view is either very good or just plain awful.”
“Is the Governor done with tax increases? Clearly, he is not. Murphy is testing the old saying, ‘Tell a lie often enough and people will believe it.’ New Jersey residents deserve better. If Murphy is going to reach for the taxpayer wallet, he should be honest enough to come out and say it.”
“He vowed to continue his push to broaden prekindergarten education; boost the innovation economy, clean energy initiatives and ‘cutting-edge technologies’; and assist the state’s fledgling cannabis and sports betting industries. On the face of it, that certainly sounds like a governor planning to stick around and plow the back-40 acres of his second-term agenda. But he also sounded very much like a candidate trying to position himself in the sweet spot of a fractious national Democratic Party, somewhere between the progressives pushing for equity and the moderates seeking affordability (a word he used several times Tuesday). He was branding himself as a consensus candidate for 2024.
Murphy was putting the national political class on notice that he should be given a serious look, especially if President Joe Biden continues his current nosedive, Vice President Kamala Harris can’t make the case as the viable replacement, and others, like Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, dwell in single-digit polling.”
“In his remarks Murphy sought to cast New Jersey as the ‘opportunity’ state, reiterating broad promises about investing in schools and technology and highlighting his administration’s record on controlling the growth of property taxes. And on that last subject, he hinted at doing more: ‘I’m not going to be satisfied with just slowing property-tax growth. I want to get us to a place where we can begin to see them go down,’ he said. ‘Enough already.’ New Jersey will continue to provide more state dollars to public schools and preschools, with a goal of “ensuring universal preschool” in every community, and to make college more affordable, Murphy said.”
“The inaugural speech echoed much of what Murphy included in his State of the State address last week. He spoke of his administration’s accomplishments over the past four years and the goals it has set for the next four. Murphy has framed his second term as a continuation of his first, and there are few new policy proposals that he’s pitched thus far.”
“In his inaugural address, Gov. Murphy emphasized reducing NJ’s sky-high property taxes. This is an improvement over his previous posture of ‘if taxes are your issue then NJ may not be your state,’ but words are cheap and if Murphy simply raises other taxes to lower property taxes, then NJ’s very-high-tax status quo will remain in place and the NJ economy will continue to underperform…Why would entrepreneurs choose NJ? Why would educated, young job-seekers, who often seek to join start-ups, choose NJ? According to the Fed, they won’t. These jobs for the future will go to states with lower taxes. This is a very poor position for NJ to be in for a state with so many (unaddressed) challenges looming in the future.
Once again, Murphy the ex-Goldman Sachs banker surely understands the relationship between high taxes and low entrepreneurship, but politically ambitious, progressive Governor Murphy prefers to cater to his government union pals, who generously fund his political career.”
“While we congratulate the governor today, we also must continue to stress our ongoing concerns with policies that strike against affordability, hurt regional competitiveness, and add more burdens to business, as we saw with several of the bills signed into law today. These are examples of ongoing policies that will further challenge our business climate.”