(The Center Square) – New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy defended his actions during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying the state had to tackle the pandemic head-on and eschew business as usual.
“We haven’t sugarcoated our problems and we haven’t followed the old Trenton playbook of kicking them down the road for someone else to deal with,” Murphy said during his annual State of the State, delivered virtually.
In a speech chock full of liberal talking points and initiatives, Murphy took the opportunity to highlight what he views as his most significant policy achievements to date, including moving to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour, implementing a millionaire’s tax and overseeing NJ Transit’s achievement of the federally mandated Positive Train Control safety technology. He also touted the Garden State as a leader in offshore wind-energy production and expanded paid family and medical leave.
The governor, who faces reelection this year, identified several priorities moving forward, including supporting small businesses and innovative startups, improving health care, comprehensive ethics reforms and enacting early in-person voting. He also wants to see expanded safe and affordable housing and “full funding” of schools in the state.
“Yet some in New Jersey are suggesting the same old failed policies of decades past,” Murphy said. “They forget that, after the last economic downturn, the prior administration cut taxes for millionaires, cut vital programs, left middle and working-class residents behind, and, as a result, we had the slowest recovery of any state in the nation.
“Our long-standing inequities have never been felt more sharply than during the past 10 months,” Murphy added. “To blunt them, we must accept the fact that we can’t grow and strengthen the middle class by pulling the rug out from under it – and that we can’t cut and slash our way to growth and opportunity.”
In response to the State of the State, Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean said the governor should learn from the mistakes of last year and build consensus with other elected leaders across the Garden State.
“The total lack of transparency from the administration has made it difficult for people to see a light at the end of the tunnel,” Kean, R-Westfield, said in a statement. “The people of New Jersey need to hear of the governor’s reopening strategies for schools and downtowns, and they want clarity on a schedule for vaccinations.
“The Governor needs to be willing to work in (a) bipartisan manner with the Legislature,” Kean added. “We could have prevented the policy failures that led to unnecessary deaths in our nursing and veterans homes, the closure of nearly one-third of New Jersey’s small businesses, and the unemployment of nearly two-million New Jerseyans.”