The state of New Jersey must make smart investments, restore fiscal responsibility and change the culture in Trenton while standing in support of the middle class and stamping out hate, Gov. Phil Murphy said during his State of the State address Tuesday.
“Wages are increasing. More people are entering our workforce. This is all good news,” Murphy said during a joint session of the state Legislature. “But, none of this progress happens by accident. Economic progress does not happen on its own. Social progress does not happen on its own.
“They only happen when we work together. And, when we put the people we serve ahead of everything else,” Murphy added. “We didn’t achieve this, by the way, despite our progressive economic policies. We achieved this because of those policies.”
While Murphy touted an initiative raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour and what he described as expanded tax breaks for working families, he lamented the high costs of health care.
He used the opportunity to announce the formation of the Office of Healthcare Accountability and Transparency, which will be part of the governor’s office and called on lawmakers to codify “a woman’s full reproductive rights.”
“We have some of the nation’s, frankly the world’s, leading hospitals and health care facilities,” Murphy said. “We are home to groundbreaking research and treatments. We need to ensure that these are accessible to everyone.”
Meanwhile, the much-maligned NJ Transit will soon announce a 10-year strategic plan and a five-year capital plan. Even though the agency is updating its fleet to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, it marks the first time the agency has ever created the plans, Murphy said.
“If a transit system doesn’t know where it’s going, it’s never going to get there,” Murphy said, prompting some lawmakers to laugh. “That’s what our strategic and capital plans will change.”
He added: “It will take more than just dollars and cents to raise NJ Transit to where we know it can be, and where our commuters need it to be. It will also take a clear mission and a clear vision.”
He also teased a new Energy Master Plan. This “comprehensive road map” aims to help the state achieve its goal “of a 100-percent clean-energy economy by 2050.”
Murphy began his speech by memorializing the Dec. 10 shooting at a kosher grocery store in Jersey City and lauding law enforcement for their response to the tragedy.
“If ever there was a time for us to recognize the bravery and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform, it was that day,” Murphy said. “Over the past weeks, we have been brought together as one New Jersey family – first in shock, then in mourning, and now in our commitment to stamping out anti-Semitism.”
In the immediate aftermath of the address, at least some Republican lawmakers were not satisfied with the governor's speech.
“Too many residents have already reached their limit and are becoming more actively engaged in fighting the extreme policies which undermine the rule of law, contradict basic fairness in the distribution in state aid and disrespect the religious values held by many," Sen. Christopher Connors and Assembly members Brian Rumpf and DiAnne Gove said in a joint statement. “The new legislative session offers the opportunity to put an end to the divisive, politically motivated and costly policies that are making people desperate to leave the state that is becoming increasingly unaffordable even with a strong national economy."