We’re Halfway Through Gov. Murphy’s First Term. How’s He Doing?

Here's what’s gone well, what hasn’t and what we can learn from it all.

Gov. Phil Murphy Photo by Fred Conrad

SUCCESSES

Universal pre-K: Murphy led the effort in Trenton with support from key legislators to provide new funding for universal pre-K, particularly for our state’s most vulnerable children.

Free community college: Under a pilot program pushed by the Murphy administration, free community college became a reality at all 19 New Jersey county colleges for eligible students from low-income families. 

Planned Parenthood funding: Murphy did the right thing in restoring $7.5 million for family planning for the fiscal 2018 and 2019 budgets. This has allowed clinics to expand services and hours, thereby serving nearly 110,000 people.  

Minimum wage increase: Some business leaders remain concerned about the economic impact of gradually increasing the minimum wage to $15 by January 1, 2024, but helping workers cope financially in our expensive state is, in the long run, a good thing for all. 

Superintendent salaries: Murphy did away with the Christie administration’s cap of $175,000 on superintendent salaries, which some blamed for the resignations of numerous superintendents. Yes, some superintendents of small school districts might be viewed as overpaid, but larger, more complex school districts need the flexibility to compete with districts in neighboring states for the best school leaders. 

FALLING SHORT

Can’t we get along? Murphy’s biggest shortcoming has been his inability to create a productive relationship with Democratic legislative leaders, particularly Senate president Steve Sweeney. On many issues, the governor’s efforts fall short, in large part because he hasn’t figured out how to end the friction with key legislative leaders. 

The millionaire’s tax: Murphy wants to raise certain taxes; Sweeney is convinced  that the last thing New Jersey should do is raise taxes. Without Sweeney’s support, there’ll be no hike in the millionaire’s tax any time soon. If the governor wants to fix New Jersey’s finances, he needs a new and more effective strategy of working with Sweeney and Assembly speaker Craig Coughlin. 

Legalized marijuana: It remains a long shot. Murphy couldn’t sell legalization to stubborn legislators in his own party. Now it looks like citizens will be asked to decide the matter in a public referendum. 

INCOMPLETE

Gateway Tunnel: This is a tricky one. It’s not really Murphy’s failure, but if he keeps publicly bashing Donald Trump, the governor shouldn’t expect our often vindictive president to shell out billions in federal dollars to match the New Jersey and New York commitments to Gateway.

FAILURES

Nondisclosure: The governor and First Lady Tammy Murphy have effectively advocated on behalf of the #MeToo movement. Just one problem, Murphy’s gubernatorial campaign made female campaign workers sign nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) that bar them from talking publicly about allegations of sexual harassment or assault. Murphy can resolve this inconsistency by removing those NDAs immediately.

NJ Transit: What a mess. The governor likes to blame the agency’s woes on his predecessor, Chris Christie, but the folks who run the trains can’t even communicate the simplest information to nearly 900,000 daily commuters about cancellations, delays and other service issues. Yes, a special committee is investigating NJ Transit’s issues, but, to be frank, the governor needs to start kicking some ass at the agency if he expects to see any progress.  

Click here to leave a comment
Read more Steve Adubato: Only in NJ articles.

By submitting comments you grant permission for all or part of those comments to appear in the print edition of New Jersey Monthly.