Murphy continues working through ambitious agenda

BY Michael Aron, Chief Political Correspondent |

Gov. Murphy continues to keep a busy schedule. He was at Passaic City Hall Monday morning, leading a round table discussion on the minimum wage and earned sick leave.

Murphy and many other Democrats want to raise the state minimum wage to $15 an hour.

“If you do the math and you assume that you’ve got two household incomes and you’ve got two dependents, even at $15, you’re barely scratching at the 21st century definition of poverty,” said Murphy.

The current minimum wage is $8.60. Murphy would phase-in the increase.

Democratic lawmakers who represent the city of Passaic were present and on board with the issue.

“Insuring that people have a living wage, the word minimum wage is interesting, but living wage is what applies. Passaic City is one of the poorest cities in the entire United States,” said Assemblyman Gary Schaer.

The group heard from five low-wage workers, like Rutherford library assistant, Natalie Hoffman.

“If I didn’t have family I’d be on the street. I had a $240 car repair two weeks ago, I had negative $7 in my bank account for a week praying that nothing bad would happen,” she said.

“This is a reality too many in this state are living with day in and day out, and we have to change it and we will,” said Murphy.

Sunday, the governor breathed life into a moribund criminal justice commission. The Criminal Sentencing and Disposition Commission was authorized in 2009, but has never met. Murphy appointed former Chief Justice Deborah Poritz and police leader Jiles Ship to the commission. Its charge is to examine racial and ethnic disparities in sentencing.

Monday afternoon in Jersey City, Murphy signed an executive order creating the New Jersey Commission on Puerto Rico Relief. Murphy led a delegation to the hurricane-battered island in December. The commission is a three month effort to step up recovery aid.

“Beyond our basic humanity, there is a direct imperative for New Jersey to be a part of Puerto Rico’s healing process. Over a half a million New Jerseyans are of Puerto Rican descent, the third largest Puerto Rican community in the United States,” said Murphy.

He was surrounded by Hispanic elected officials worried about the island’s slow recovery.

“Just today, they had an incident that a fire on one of the generators, one-third of the island is out of power, already one-third of the island has no power, so you can imagine what they’re going through,” said Democratic Rep. Albio Sires.

A Jersey City pastor will chair the group. The island is still in crisis he says.

“It’s not going well. My mother is 88-years-old. She will be 89 in just a few weeks, she hasn’t had electricity since before Hurricane Maria,” said the pastor of Cityline Church, Rev. Joshua Rodriguez.

This was Murphy’s 10th executive order in under a month. He says he’s trying to make progress without having to pass legislation, and in some cases, just laying the groundwork for future legislation. His budget address next month, he says, is also on his mind.