Phil Murphy was sworn in Tuesday as New Jersey's 56th governor, and he pledged to move the state past legacy issues inherited by his administration, push back against the policies of the Trump administration and promote economic diversity and equity.
“Today, and together, we embark on writing a new chapter in our history. However, instead of writing yet more pages about age-old problems that never go away, let’s write about the solutions,” Murphy said.
Murphy’s inaugural address centered around his campaign message to create a “stronger and fairer” New Jersey, a phrase he invoked frequently throughout the speech on a variety of issues, many of which were consistent with what he campaigned on during the election.
“A stronger and fairer New Jersey funds its public schools and delivers on the promise of property tax relief, makes four-year college more affordable and provides free access to community college,” said Murphy in the portion of his speech that touched on several of the issues he ran on, including growing the state’s economy, taxing the wealthy, reforming the criminal justice system and legalizing marijuana.
The governor said specifics for many of these issues would become clearer in the coming weeks.
Murphy asked the Legislature to send him bills that raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, promote equal pay for women and paid sick leave for workers, make voting more accessible and strengthen gun laws.
Other issues such as pensions and funding infrastructure projects were not mentioned directly.
Instead, Murphy framed his policy priorities around doing what’s best for the state while committed to working across the aisle with state Republicans to forward his agenda. Both the state Assembly and Senate are currently controlled by the Democrats.
“Our commitment to finding common ground across the aisle is genuine,” Murphy said. “I know that if we forge our future together, we will get there faster and stronger, and it will last longer than if we go it alone.”
Murphy’s commitment to consolidating bipartisan support may be due in part by his intention to push back against policies implemented by President Trump that he believes negatively impact New Jersey.
“This is not as much a battle between Democrats and Republicans, but a battle between right and wrong — between standing up for the people of New Jersey or standing for failed Washington politics,” said Murphy, adding his administration would “resist every move from President Trump and a misguided congressional leadership.”
Some of the issues Murphy mentioned affect the state directly, such as opposing the recent tax reform or federal interest in drilling for oil off the Jersey Shore. Others went beyond that scope, with the governor throwing his support behind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the Paris Climate Accord.
Diversity was a key theme in Murphy’s comments. He took a moment to recognize the diversity of his cabinet, including Gurbir Grewal, the first Sikh-American attorney general in the nation; Marlene Caride, the first Latina to lead the Department of Banking and Insurance; and Jemal Beale, the first African-American to lead the state’s National Guard.
Murphy’s resolved to tackling decades-old problems and tackling new challenges, despite the state’s lackluster financial state and the nationwide fatigue for politics. He said he remained optimistic about the future despite the challenges facing his administration.
“We can do this together if we approach politics not as a game to be won, but as a noble calling to be answered,” he said.