POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Murphy picks two more women for cabinet positions: DHS and DCF

BY Michael Aron, Chief Political Correspondent |

“It has long been said that the true values of a community can be seen in how it protects its most vulnerable residents,” said Governor-elect Phil Murphy.

You’ve heard of compassionate conservatives. Meet a compassionate liberal. Murphy took a few shots at President Trump on Wednesday for not showing much compassion in general. New Jersey can no longer silent about it, he said.

“New Jersey can and must be an example of what a compassionate society looks like,” continued Murphy.

To that end, Murphy introduced his picks for two sensitive cabinet positions.

Carole Johnson was senior health care policy adviser in the White House under President Obama. If confirmed, she’ll lead the Department of Human Services, the largest department in state government that serves one out of every five New Jerseyans.

“To paraphrase Hubert Humphrey, the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children, those in the twilight of life, the elderly, and those who are in the shadow of life. That’s the challenge and the opportunity before us,” said Johnson.

To head the Department of Children and Families, Murphy has tapped Christine Norbut Beyer, a child welfare worker, a former director of DYFS, the Division of Youth and Family Services, and a former DYFS intern.

“When I was an undergraduate social work student at Stockton College in South Jersey performing my internship at DYFS in the Red Bank office, my father, knowing my desire to work for DYFS shared with me a newspaper article about the then appointed commissioner who had started his career as a DYFS worker and rose through the ranks to be commissioner. And in sharing that story, my father said and wrote a note on the article, ‘Christine, this could be you.’ And I believed him. And he was right,” said Beyer.

“I’m asking both Carole and Christine to be the voices for those New Jerseyans who have no one else to speak on their behalf,” said Murphy.

Murphy took a handful of questions from the press, one of which was if he still favors a millionaire’s tax now that federal tax reform is taking a bite out of rich New Jerseyans’ deductions.

He said he’s pushing back on that.

“The notion that this is not constitutional is something we want to pursue. It had 500 pages of amendments in one night, most handwritten…so we’re going to figure out if there are holes, if there are creative alternatives and that’ll be the focus of our energies. We’re not reconsidering [if the millionaire’s tax is still part of my platform], but we’re trying to find other avenues on the federal side,” said Murphy.

Murphy also commented on the Gateway Tunnel project and the letter from a federal transportation official pulling out of a funding agreement.

“I personally believe that is one letter at one moment in time. I believe that cooler heads will prevail at the end of the day. This is certainly about the interest of New York and New Jersey but it is much more broadly about the interest in the entire northeast corridor and I would argue it’s a national security matter,” replied Murphy.

On the 2 percent cap on police and fire salary arbitration awards that expired Sunday without release of an expected report, Murphy wants to see a report.

“This is what drives people crazy by the way. The report is mandated by law. I mean, come on,” said Murphy.

Six of Murphy’s first seven cabinet choices were women. Last week, he named a man to run Homeland Security. With Wednesday’s nominations, eight of his first 10 cabinet picks are women.