Adubato: Governor Murphy Needs to Own His Mistakes

In his 2023 state address, Murphy failed to acknowledge cost of living, how the state handled Covid-19, the steep loss of small businesses and more.

Governor Murphy delivers the 2023 State of the State Address in Trenton in January
Governor Murphy's 2023 State of the State missed important issues like cost of living, Steve Adubato writes. Photo courtesy of Edwin J. Torres/NJ Governor's Office

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy gave a perfectly fine State of the State address to kick off 2023, yet he didn’t address any of his administration’s shortcomings.  

He touched a lot of key bases, saying, “We are rebuilding the American dream right here.” Murphy, who often displays an enthusiastic demeanor, called Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver “rock solid” and spoke about the expansion of the film and television industry here, saying, “New Jersey is ready for our close-up.” He also said that New Jersey is “cool” again. Murphy praised the ANCHOR property-tax relief program, talking about the historic $2 billion investment. He gets points for getting this done with a Democratic legislature—but why weren’t those rebate checks sent out sooner?

Another area where Murphy gets points is maternal health, praising the work of First Lady Tammy Murphy and Oliver for “taking on longstanding racial inequities.” Real progress has been made on Murphy’s watch. And, as someone who loves the Jersey Shore, I am happy the governor announced a new Boardwalk Fund to provide critical state aid to struggling Shore towns that have been especially devastated by Covid-19. 

All this is well and good, but I just keep wondering why political leaders like Murphy can’t simply own their mistakes. I’m disappointed that he didn’t address the ways his administration failed or fell short on several fronts.

Consider this: More than 9,000 people died as a result of Covid in New Jersey’s long-term care facilities. Was that really the best we could do? No regrets about that? No lessons learned for the future about how to manage our veterans and nursing homes, or how to prepare for a future pandemic or other health crisis? And why, exactly, are we waiting until late 2023 for an outside report on how the state handled Covid? Don’t we have enough information now? 

Speaking of candor, why can’t we honestly acknowledge that for more and more New Jerseyans, our state is simply not affordable? Murphy is not uniquely responsible for this, as it has been going on for years. New Jersey has increasingly become too expensive. Why not just acknowledge it along with saying how “cool” New Jersey is?

And what about small business? The New Jersey Economic Development Authority has many programs and initiatives in this regard. But what if the governor acknowledged that we’ve lost over a third of small businesses in our state, and that his administration simply needs to do better at creating an environment where small business can survive, thrive and feel welcome?

And what about student learning loss? Our kids suffered terribly in public schools during the pandemic, and it took too long for Murphy’s Department of Education to release this data. It’s a problem. Why not just say we need to play catch-up to help our kids? Isn’t that a part of the state of our state?

So here’s the deal. There was nothing wrong with Murphy’s State of the State address. It was upbeat, but that is only part of the picture. It would have felt a little more real if he had acknowledged how they (and we) have fallen short. Why not just say we must do better, and we will? Is that really too much to ask? 

Steve Adubato, PhD, is the author of five books including his latest, Lessons in Leadership. He is also an Emmy® Award–winning anchor on Thirteen/WNET (PBS) and NJ PBS. Check out Steve has appeared on CNN, FOX5 in NY and NBC’s Today Show, and his “Lessons in Leadership” video podcast with co-host Mary Gamba airs Sundays at 10 am on News 12+. Steve also provides executive leadership coaching and seminars for a variety of corporations and organizations both regionally and nationally. For more information, visit

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