As first big speeches go, Governor-elect Phil Murphy’s address to the 102nd Annual New Jersey State League of Municipalities Convention was less barn-burner and more scene-setter, with the new chief executive using broad strokes to outline an agenda just about 180 degrees in the other direction from the current governor.
“I do not come to the governorship claiming to remotely have all the answers, but I know where to find a lot of them. I am going to rely heavily on you — all of you in this room — to help us move forward,” said Murphy.
Murphy made it clear that, where his predecessor could be bombastic and acerbic, he planned a different approach.
“We need a change in mindset in our political discourse. Enough with the ‘us’ versus ‘them.’ Enough of the name-calling, the personal attacks. Or the ‘we can’t,’ or ‘if only’ attitudes. None of that does a thing to solve our problems, it only perpetuates them,” he continued.
As for priorities, the Democratic governor-elect faced with a Legislature of his own party insisted his focus will be different than Chris Christie’s.
“A higher wage, equal pay for equal work and earned sick leave for our residents. And yes, we will ask the wealthiest among us and biggest corporations to pay their fair share. This is not class warfare by any means, it is equity. And the payoff will be clear — a state where the middle class regains its footing and an economy that works for everyone,” said Murphy.
So, how did that go over?
“Minimum wage increase and a millionaire’s tax — those two things alone could stifle job growth in New Jersey, we know that from our research,” said New Jersey Business and Industry Association President and CEO Michele Siekerka. “However, we know that if we look at policies in a more comprehensive manner, there are ways to get to things by working in some common places. We are hopeful that we can have those discussions and we’ve been told we can have those discussions.”
On style? Not so much a Christie, but certainly a Murphy.
“Listen, everyone has different strengths. A hell of a speech, we’ll see how the governing goes. We’re looking forward to that,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney.
One thing Murphy showed in closing was a skillful capacity to exit stage right, while the press is otherwise occupied stage left.