Murphy plans to “build the Next New Jersey”
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy delivered his fifth State of the State address on Tuesday afternoon before a joint session of the Legislature in Trenton, the first time he has given this address in person since the COVID pandemic.
The speech reprised the familiar “stronger and fairer” theme of his tenure and highlighted accomplishments from Murphy’s five years in office, including investments in infrastructure such as Gateway and the New Jersey Wind Port, and strong economic numbers.
Murphy, who currently serves as Chair of both the National Governors Association (NGA) and Democratic Governors Association (DGA), wove national and foreign policy issues into his speech. He began by expressing support for Ukraine in the face of Russian invasion and recognizing the Ukrainian Consul General and members of the Ukrainian Defense Forces who attended the attended the address. Murphy also drew contrast between political “dysfunction and chaos” in Washington and his leadership in New Jersey. He also took a shot at Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, pointing out that New Jersey’s economic record is outpacing Florida and other “so-called ‘business friendly’ states.”
In outlining the main theme of his address: building the next New Jersey, the Governor announced several new priorities and initiatives, including:
- Overhauling New Jersey’s liquor law system. Murphy’s proposal would scrap the century-old system of allotting liquor licenses by municipal population and replace it with a market-based structure;
- Establishing a “Boardwalk Fund” in his FY24 budget to help shore towns rehabilitate municipal boardwalks, or as the Governor termed them, “wooden Main Streets”;
- Extending the deadline to apply for Murphy’s signature ANCHOR property tax relief program. Homeowners and renters will now have until the end of February to apply for rebates to provide property tax relief or offset rent increases;
- Pledging to sign a legislative package geared toward further reducing auto thefts, which have increased over the past year and become a serious statewide concern;
- Implementing a statewide plan to offer “anonymous and free access” to the opioid overdose drug naloxone.
Murphy closed his address in rousing fashion, declaring that “the American Dream is alive and well in New Jersey.” Murphy will unveil his FY24 budget proposal to the Legislature in a joint address next month. Read the full text of Murphy’s State of the State address here.
Sussex County Republican Steve Oroho, the Senate Minority Leader, delivered a rebuttal to Murphy’s State of the State and faulted the Murphy Administration for failing to “fix our broken unemployment and motor vehicle computer systems” and signing a concealed carry gun law, parts of which were struck down by a federal judge on Monday. Oroho also criticized the Murphy Administration for double-digit premium increases for state and local government workers enrolled in the state-run public employees health insurance program.
Hochul rolls out ambitious agenda
An hour earlier and 200 miles to the north, New York Governor Kathy Hochul delivered her second State of the State address, her first as the elected governor of New York. Governor Hochul used her platform to roll out an ambitious agenda that includes tying the minimum wage to the rate of inflation, building 800,000 units of new housing, and a renewed pledge to advance bail reform.
Despite the general reluctance of legislative leaders to tackle bail reform and an ongoing squabble over her nominee for chief judge to the state’s highest court, Hochul took a warm and cordial tone during her address. Hochul enjoys a close working relationship with New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a stark contrast to the sometimes difficult relationship between their respective predecessors.
Hochul highlighted dozens of policy proposals during her address, In total, the Governor introduced 147 separate proposals in a 277-page policy book delivered to Members of the Legislature earlier in the day. Key highlights include:
- Increasing the minimum wage. Hochul proposed a plan to index the minimum wage to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the Northeast region, shifting responsibility away from the Legislature which is presently charged with making any changes.
- Reforming New York’s bail laws. The Governor renewed her push to to adopt changes to the state’s bail laws in order to give judges greater discretion to set bail or remand a defendant when they’re accused of serious or violent felonies, while maintaining the “least restrictive” standard for non-violent or less serious offenses.
- Establishing a “New York Housing Compact” intended to create 800,000 new housing units over the next decade. Hochul would accomplish this by setting goals for every city, town and village and making zoning and regulatory changes to expedite and streamline the approvals process.
- Support for mental health and health care. Hochul proposed $1 billion to add 1,000 beds for psychiatric treatment and 3,000 housing units for New Yorkers with mental illness. Hochul also called for steps to address severe health care staffing shortages.
- Address MTA fiscal deficit. Hochul promised to put the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) on “sound fiscal footing” although she did not offer specifics. MTA is projecting a $600 million deficit this year, due in part to ridership decimated by COVID. More detail is anticipated when Hochul presents her FY24 budget in advance of New York’s April 1 operating year.
The full text of Governor Hochul’s address, as well as a copy of the State of the State Book, is here.