Government

Challenges Abound for Gov. Murphy, Say Rutgers Experts

4a4a2b37b85d6c74b98e_best_crop_bf38466fc46ba1bca7d7_Murphy800px-Philip_D_2x._Murphy_2x.jpg
4a4a2b37b85d6c74b98e_best_crop_bf38466fc46ba1bca7d7_Murphy800px-Philip_D_2x._Murphy_2x.jpg

From legalizing marijuana to funding the public employee pension system, New Jersey’s incoming governor faces challenges that require investments of time, leadership and communication

Phil Murphy, who today becomes New Jersey’s 56th governor, takes the helm of a state facing numerous challenges – fiscal, infrastructure, and transportation, to name a few.   Murphy supported a $15 minimum wage and the legalization of marijuana during his campaign, and now faces the difficulties inherent in bringing those priorities to fruition. Rutgers Today asked several faculty experts about the long road ahead for the new governor.

Q: What advice do you have for governors in general, and for Governor Murphy in particular, for their first year in office?

Sign Up for E-News

John Weingart, associate director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics; director of the Center on the American Governor: Governors are important because state government is important. It is the level charged with melding national laws and policies with local jurisdictions and issues. Its perspective must be broader than that of municipal or county government, but still able to appreciate situations facing neighborhoods and even individual families in ways that generally are inaccessible to federal officials.

Governors themselves are unique among elected officials in the United States by being highly visible and powerful like a president, but also familiar and approachable like a local mayor. While the legislature and sometimes judiciary can play a major role in determining policy, the governor is seen as the voice and face of government in her or his state. And, even in a state of nine million people like New Jersey, it is often relatively easy to put yourself in the governor’s presence at an event in your community or as part of an organized interest group, and feel something of a personal relationship.

Q: During his campaign, Murphy prioritized raising New Jersey’s hourly minimum wage to $15. How strong is public support for this initiative, and what challenges will it face from businesses or other sources?

Heather McKay, director, Education and Employment Research Center, School of Management and Labor Relations: Recent data from the U.S. Census ranks New Jersey 12th highest in the nation in terms of income inequality. Raising the state’s minimum wage would go a long way in bridging that inequality. The workers who would receive a pay increase are overwhelmingly adults who work full-time in regular jobs. Research by New Jersey Policy Perspective notes that one New Jersey worker in four would benefit from the change. This increase will improve their chances of making ends meet and providing for their families in this high-cost state. While some, including the Protect New Jersey Jobs Coalition, have noted their opposition to this policy change, there is a vast amount of research both in New Jersey and in the country demonstrating the benefits of raising the minimum wage on economic activity, job growth and employment. The benefits of this policy change for New Jersey workers and communities far outweigh the perceived drawbacks.

Q: Murphy also said he will seek to legalize marijuana.  What safety and/or health concerns should be addressed if this is to happen?

Cristine Delnevo, vice dean, Rutgers School of Public Health:  Research suggests marijuana has both therapeutic and harmful effects. Marijuana may affect brain development in young people, so there should be age restrictions on its sale. Many people see marijuana as less dangerous and more socially acceptable than alcohol, and there is data to suggest that opioid-related deaths are fewer in states where marijuana is legal. If New Jersey legalizes marijuana, our lawmakers should ensure that we have good public health surveillance data on patterns of use – not just of marijuana but other products such as alcohol and opioids. The legalization of marijuana in New Jersey may very well impact the use of these products which, when used in extreme ways, are much more harmful than marijuana. There are 88,000 deaths from excessive alcohol use every year, and we are in the midst of a serious opioid epidemic. In contrast, the National Institute on Drug Abuse tells us there are no reports of people dying from marijuana overdose alone. However, we are seeing a rise in morbidity and mortality from driving under the influence of marijuana. Although this is a small fraction of what we see for alcohol, driving under the influence needs monitoring, education and enforcement.

Q:  New Jersey’s public employee pension fund is chronically underfunded, contributing to multiple downgrades to the state’s credit ratings. Governor Chris Christie has signed a law requiring that the state make quarterly payments into the pension system.  How will Murphy meet this challenge, and how will it affect his ability to meet other budgeting needs?  

Marc Pfeiffer, Senior Policy Fellow, assistant director, Local Government Research Center, Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy:  The unfunded liability of our employee pension and benefit systems are the elephants in the state’s budget house. Add to it school aid funding, rationalizing and resetting services to meet current needs, investing in the economy, fixing a deteriorating infrastructure, and the challenge is huge. We should consider the state’s budget as a whole. Everything is connected, short- and long-term. And the unexpected plays a role; losing the federal income tax deduction of state taxes makes raising those state taxes more challenging than before.

There is no easy budget fix. Solving it requires consultation, leadership, motivation, clear and honest communication with the public, no blame, some shared sacrifice, time, and a sincere desire to get the state on a sustainable fiscal path forward. It’s clear that continually kicking the can down the road will further deteriorate the state’s fiscal condition, its economy, and the confidence of the people in their leaders.

Q:  One of the most vexing challenges Murphy must face is transportation funding. NJ Transit reportedly struggles to fund its operations and capital improvement program.  Meanwhile, funding for the Gateway Program to expand train capacity under the Hudson River is uncertain.  What options are available to Murphy as he addresses these issues?

Jon Carnegie, executive director, Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center, Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy: For at least 20 years, New Jersey’s transportation capital and operating needs have exceeded the funding available to support investment.  There has been no political will to face this challenge.  Finally, last year, New Jersey’s elected leaders took a big step by increasing the gas tax, and that provided a much needed infusion of capital. Unfortunately, the increase will not be enough to meet a growing list of critical transportation needs, such as the on-going costs of operating public transit services and such projects as the Gateway Tunnel, a new midtown Manhattan bus terminal, and replacing the Lincoln Tunnel Helix.  Governor-elect Murphy and his new transportation team will need to tap into non-traditional funding streams, such as increasing rental car fees and creating “transit benefit districts” that permit the assessment of fees on commercial and even residential properties in areas that benefit from public transit services. They might also consider innovative project delivery and financing techniques that bring in private capital to support transportation projects.  The governor and legislature may even have to consider some unpopular approaches such as introducing tolls on facilities that are currently toll-free. 

 

TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove  is an online newspaper serving the Townships of Verona and Cedar Grove. TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove is accredited by the New Jersey Press Association, and is a locally owned news organization serving the community.

Sign up for our FREE daily eNews and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Got a news tip or opinion? email us at jmoreno@tapinto.net

Download the FREE TAPinto App!  Click here for Android - Click here for iOS to get news as it is happening.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Verona/Cedar Grove

Students Demand Action to host 'Day of Action' on Columbine Anniversary at Brookdale Park

April 18, 2018

Students Demand Action Essex County will host “April 20 Day of Action: Gun Reform Education Fair” to educate and inform local students about the need for gun reform in our nation, inspire them to be activists, and honor the anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting.

The April 20 event will take place in at Brookdale Park (lower field by Bellevue entrance) in ...

Cedar Grove Police Blotter

April 16, 2018

April 8, 2018 – April 15, 2018

On April 9, 2018 at 7:50 a.m., Ptl. Jason Rivers responded to a Cedar Street address to take a report of a stolen motor vehicle. The vehicle was stolen from the driveway during the overnight hours. Patrolman Rivers was able to locate the vehicle using an application installed by the dealer on the owner’s phone. Detectives responded to that area in ...

Montville Residents & Twp Committee Ask for Resignation of Committeewoman over Facebook Post

April 15, 2018

MONTVILLE, NJ – The Montville Township Committee voted to censure Committee Member June Witty for a personal Facebook post she made on April 8 which compared Democrats to Nazis. All four members of the five-person committee asked for her resignation.

The post, a chart which states that Nazis believed in “media mind control,” “no guns,” abortion, and ...

Upcoming Events

Wed, April 25, 7:00 PM

Hospital Conference Room 2 (Ground Floor), Glen Ridge

Becoming a Parent

Health & Wellness

Wed, April 25, 7:30 PM

Cedar Grove Public Library , Cedar Grove

The Bellevue Theater: Fade to Black or double ...

Arts & Entertainment

Thu, April 26, 4:00 PM

Alzheimer's NJ Headquarters, Roseland

Alzheimer's 101

Education

Register Now for the Verona Music Parent Association 3rd Annual Spring Golf Outing

April 22, 2018

VERONA, NJ - Calling All Golfers -- the Verona Music Parents Association is hosting its 3rd Annual Spring Golf Outing on May 9. at the Black Bear Golf Club in Franklin, NJ.

Registration begins at 8 a.m. with a 9 a.m. shot gun start.  Barbecue lunch will be provided.  To register visit vmpagolf.org.

All money raised will benefit the Verona High School Music Department.  

'The Sting' shimmers and shakes at Paper Mill

‘The Sting ‘slithers and shakes at Paper Mill Playhouse

By LIZ KEILL

MILLBURN, NJ – In a premiere production of “The Sting,” Harry Connick Jr. commands the Paper Mill Playhouse stage in Millburn.

Based on the sensational Paul Newman/Robert Redford film in 1973, the 1930s plot centers on a con game and gambling, sometimes on a train between New York and ...