Governor Phil Murphy came to Teaneck last week for a town hall in which he took pride in fulfilling the majority of his campaign promises and committed to trying to complete the rest.
“We are who we said we would be,” Mr. Murphy said. “We staked out what we believed in and that’s what we stuck to. We stand every single day for a stronger and fairer New Jersey, that works for everybody and not just somebody. We believe with all our hearts that we don’t make economic progress without social progress and at the same time we don’t make social progress without economic progress.
“We are pro-growth progressive. My predecessor and others on the other side would have you believe you can be either strong or fair.” New Jersey can have both, he said.
He acknowledged that “we still have unfinished business. At the top of the list is tax fairness,” referring to his proposal to increase the marginal tax rate on people earning more than $1 million by less than two percentage points.
He praised climate activist Greta Thunberg. “She’s basically saying, ‘You oldsters didn’t get it done. Shame on you.’ She’s right. We haven’t gotten it done.”
However, he said, the state is planning to invest seriously in wind power. “We have an energy plan to go 100 percent clean by mid-century. We rejoined the regional greenhouse gas pact. I signed a bill to ban offshore drilling.”
He was asked about plans for new pipelines and power plants.
“Have you seen us approve anything?” he replied. “It might give us all a sugar high to say, ‘Heck no, we’re going to shut down X Y and Z.’ But this stuff goes to courts. If we don’t cross Ts and dot Is, this stuff will blow up in our faces. Penn East” — a proposed natural gas pipeline that suffered an appeals court defeat against New Jersey earlier this month — “is an example of where we got it done.”
One Teaneck resident asked about state grants that have funded a pre-K program in the town: “What guarantees do we have that we can continuously receive such grants?”
“There is no guarantee from year to year,” Mr. Murphy replied. “It’s another reason we have to find more revenue.
“But we are committed. We are the number one public education system in America. We beat Massachusetts. The explicit reason we got it done is because we put more money into solving the inequities than any other state.”
One woman asked about medical marijuana. “I’m presently using it for medical reasons,” she said. “It’s very expensive. Insurance won’t pay for it. Recreational [legalization] will hopefully drive down the price.”
“We were one of the first states in the country with a medical marijuana regime,” Governor Murphy said. “My predecessor gummed it up.”
Under his administration, “We got tens of thousands of people able to participate in the program. The list of maladies has expanded. It’s a great success story, but it’s too expensive. On an ongoing basis, it’s a tremendous alternative to opioids.
“We tried like heck in March to get recreational adult use done. The status quo is unacceptable. We came close in the Senate. We’ve had good leadership discussions about maybe going back again. The alternative is maybe a referendum in 2020, which is a long way off. Meanwhile, 600 people are arrested a week, primarily people of color.”
He also was asked about housing immigrants detained by the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement division of the Department of Homeland Security at local prisons. “These are county decisions,” he said. “I don’t like the federal government’s a-to-z immigration policy, everything from detentions to H-1B visas.”
He said there was “no easy answer” to reining in property taxes. Possible solutions include shared services, growing the economy, and “the state funding some of the mandates the state walked away from in the last administration, notably public administration.”
And “the missing ingredient is tax fairness. We’re still asking for too much of the investment in the middle class to be paid by the middle class.”
He concluded with new years’ greetings.
“Shanah tovah to everyone who’s here,” he said. “God bless you all.”