The governor used his second annual State of the State address on Jan. 14 to decry “well-connected and entrenched special interests,” make another go at the twice-defeated millionaire’s tax proposal, and once again push for a deal on New Jersey’s next set of flagship economic incentives.
Gov. Phil Murphy’s address touched upon a new state watchdog program to keep down health care costs – called the Office of Health Care Accountability and Transparency – and a jobs-training program to ensure the state’s workforce is prepared, and employable, in the event of another economic recession down the road. Moreover, he mentioned the ongoing debates regarding a new tax incentive program, which the state has been without for more than six months, and the urge to strike a deal on how New Jersey will next attempt to lure business to the state.
“We now know that some companies received tax credits they did not deserve and took credit for jobs they did not create,” the governor said in his remarks. “They didn’t just hurt their own reputations, they hurt the reputations of the many more good corporate actors who have done exactly what they said they would.”
Business advocates such as the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce and the New Jersey Business & Industry Association said they hoped Murphy would address the tax incentive negotiations.
Those same groups were also opposed to Murphy’s millionaire’s tax, which would raise the income rate from 8.97 percent to 10.75 percent for every dollar earned above $1 million. That issue has been a non-starter among legislative leadership, though in June 2018 they did agree to approve a “mega-millionaire’s tax” on earners above $5 million.
“The millionaires and corporate CEOs made out just fine in the last recession – and, I assure you, they will again when the next one hits,” he added.
“Trenton tried their way. And, history is clear – that way failed. New Jersey hobbled its way through economic recovery because their choices failed to create jobs and failed to raise incomes,” Murphy said, taking a jab at lawmakers.
Murphy also unveiled a new program, simply called Jobs NJ, whose mission will be to “better align our education system to meet the future needs of both employers and workers, and do better at matching our workers with potential employers,” Murphy said in his address.
According to Murphy, much of New Jersey fell behind following the 2008 recession because “we were stuck in an old-fashioned belief that when a job is lost in a recession, all a worker has to do is wait things out and get it back once the economy recovers.”
“Many of the jobs lost never returned, and more workers were left without the skills necessary for the new jobs that beckoned,” reads his address. “We will not repeat this mistake. We will make New Jersey a national leader in welcoming and maintaining the jobs of tomorrow.”
We will not repeat this mistake. We will make New Jersey a national leader in welcoming and maintaining the jobs of tomorrow.
Meanwhile, his health care watchdog group, run out of the governor’s office, will be tasked with working “across state agencies and lead critical efforts to reduce consumer health care costs, make insurance more affordable, and improve price transparency,” according to the address. The governor will also direct the Department of Banking and Insurance to work with the new agency to monitor health care costs paid by residents.
“Armed with this data, we will make smart decisions to limit cost increases and set new standards for quality and transparency,” the address reads.
You can read the governor’s full remarks here.
Murphy and legislative leaders have already taken several steps to replicate several popular features of the Affordable Care Act at the state level, and create a state-based health plan exchange.
“[D]espite this progress, the cost of health care is still too high,” Murphy’s address reads. “Our residents, our families, and our businesses all struggle with the high cost of coverage, the cost of medications, high deductibles, out-of-pocket expenses, and more.”
Murphy unveiled plans to announce an “Energy Master Plan” in the coming weeks to map out how the state can generate 100 percent clean and renewable energy by 2050.
He also decried a “culture” of misogyny in Trenton, which has empowered men in positions of authority to carry out sexual harassment against female lawmakers, lobbyists, political operatives and elected officials. “For too many years, too many people in power have turned their eyes away from behavior they knew was not only happening, but pervasive,” he said Tuesday.
The governor touched upon efforts his administration undertook to improve New Jersey Transit, the beleaguered mass transit agency that has been hounded by delays and cancellations, unsafe riding conditions, and a fatal Hoboken train crash in 2016. The agency has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in rolling stock such as rail cars, locomotive engines and buses and expanded its training classes for engineers, Murphy said.
“At the end of the day, we still must answer to the commuter whose train was cancelled, or whose bus is over capacity,” Murphy said. “I won’t be happy until we bat 1,000.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 6:12 p.m. EST on Jan. 14 to include additional comments from Gov. Phil Murphy’s 2020 State of the State address.