POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

At MSU, Murphy touts initiatives, discusses Newark and bristles at Sweeney suggestion

BY Michael Aron, Chief Political Correspondent |

Gov. Phil Murphy came to Montclair State University on Thursday to stump for two initiatives that hew closely to key items on his agenda – an apprentice program designed to prepare New Jerseyans for the world economy and a fellowship for educators who teach in so-called STEM subjects.

During a session with the press corps afterwards, Murphy fielded questions about Newark’s water crisis, saying that he didn’t believe there was a need to declare a state of emergency in the city. He also repeated his call for the federal government to take a hand in a permanent fix for drinking-water systems, both in the state’s largest city and across the nation.

Murphy also responded angrily to questions about reports that state Senate President Steve Sweeney, a frequent sparring partner, said he would push legislation making it a crime for anyway to lie to the Legislature, while making reference to an inquiry earlier this year into rape allegations lodged by one member of Murphy’s administration against another.

On the apprenticeship program, the governor said, “There are few other ways we can more directly create the connections we need between our people and the real economy than through apprenticeships. In fact, when I meet with business leaders interested in either making a move to or growing in New Jersey, increasingly their top concern is the availability of talent.”

The program includes a partnership with the German-American Chamber of Commerce, whose members were on hand Thursday at Montclair State.

During his remarks, the governor, a former ambassador to Germany, spoke in German and then offered a translation, “For those of you who are not German speakers, I said today we are taking another step to develop workforce training initiatives with our friends in Germany.”

A few buildings away on campus, Murphy addressed teachers assembled for a two-day workshop on best practices in science, technology, engineering and math education.

Under the banner of the New Jersey STEM Innovation Fellowship program, similar seminars are being held at Princeton and Rowan Universities.

”We’re here at a critical time for our state,” Murphy said. “We’re at a crossroads in education where the classic three R’s are being joined by four other letters, S-T-E-M.”

Afterwards, the governor took questions.

On Newark’s drinking-water crisis, he said so long as the state can keep supplying bottled water to residents, the situation did not warrant a state-of-emergency declaration.

But he said what’s really needed is a national approach to the problem of lead contamination in drinking water, what he called a renaissance investment in water infrastructure.

“Our congressional delegation has been very good about trying to push for that,” he said. “But to me it would be a huge step for the country, for the Trump Administration and for the Congress to take that step and say we’re going to have a 10-year investment in water infrastructure all over the country. This is hardly a Newark-only or New Jersey-only challenge.”

Sweeney told nj.com recently that it’s possible witnesses at the recent hearings looking into a rape charge lodged by Katie Brennan were less than truthful with the Select Commission impaneled to review the matter. Sweeney also said that anyone who lies to the Legislature should be charged with a fourth-degree crime.

Murphy responded angrily.

“If the implication is that folks in my administration didn’t tell the truth under oath — if that’s the implication — I find that offensive, unacceptable, and outrageous,” he said.