Murphy Discusses Past Year, Present and Future at League Conference

Saying that a spirit of collaboration is how the state will move forward and that economic growth is the ticket to a better future, Gov. Phil Murphy this afternoon highlighted his accomplishments to hundreds of municipal officials at the New Jersey League of Municipalities’ Delegates Luncheon at the Sheraton Hotel in Atlantic City.

Murphy noted that he was governor-elect a year ago, talking to the same audience at last year’s League luncheon. At that time, he recalls saying that he promised his administration would build a foundation on which would rest a stronger and fairer state. “Today,” he said, “I come back proud of our accomplishments. I am confident the state is moving in the right direction and that the people of New Jersey agree with that direction. We are not spiking any footballs … but so far so good.”

Not wanting to mirror the “spectacle” seen in Washington, D.C., with both federal legislators and President Trump constantly throwing negative missives at each other, Murphy asserted that the people of New Jersey “want us to be honest and open about the challenges we face.”

Touching upon a few elements of his economic development strategy, which was introduced in early October, Murphy discussed the creation of new financing tools for brownfields development and implementing a State Historic Preservation Tax Credit. He also mentioned the fact that the state has 169 designated Opportunity Zones (economically distressed communities) across 75 municipalities which are expected to attract new private investment and create new jobs in the state via the program, which was spearheaded by US Senator Cory Booker and became part of the Trump Administration’s Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017.

“Spurring new job growth is also our best point in attacking the property tax menace,” Murphy said. Other initiatives discussed that he said would reduce this tax burden included reforming state union workers’ healthcare benefits, announced in September, that should save taxpayers an estimated $500 million while delivering “high-quality care” to union workers.

He said that revamping the school funding formula so that the program “meets the realities of New Jersey in 2018,” is another way of lessening the property tax burden on families and seniors. (In July, the Murphy Administration announced new school funding distribution totals based on increased appropriations and modernizations made to the school funding formula. In total, almost $8.5 billion was to be disbursed to the state’s 577 school districts, including an additional $68 million to bring aid in balance for underfunded districts.)

Murphy went on to mention other accomplishments, such as: restoring funding for planned parenthood; strengthening the health insurance marketplace, where premiums in the individual market will be lowered by 10 percent in the coming year; signing the paid sick leave law; and implementing automatic voter registration and “common sense” gun control laws.

On the energy front, he touted the state’s moving away from fossil fuels as seen by the largest offshore wind energy solicitation in the nation: a 1,100-megawatt solicitation made by the Board of Public Utilities this past September, with the broader goal of the state generating 3500 megawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030, not to mention the state generating 100 percent clean energy by 2050.

On increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour, Murphy said more money would go into the pockets of hundreds of thousands of New Jersey residents. In turn, he said that would mean more money being spent in New Jersey’s “downtowns.”

Lastly, he discussed the legalization of recreational marijuana, saying the current prohibition has failed. “We have [made] hundreds of thousands of residents, mostly residents of color, criminals for low level possession crimes, impeding their ability to get jobs or an education.

“These laws have crowded our jails while leaving the bad guys in place. Legalization is the right thing to do for safer communities, for protecting our kids, for erasing the stain that is keeping so many of our fellow New Jerseyans from a better future,” he said.

“We are not inventing marijuana,” he added. “We are doing this for: social injustices; getting the bad guys out of businesses; regulating [marijuana] and, at the end of the day, making a few bucks.”

Finally, Murphy said this past year has been “transformational for the state, but we have a lot to do together. … We have pointed ourselves in a new direction.”

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