POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Murphy shows off new beaches and answers the same old questions

BY Brenda Flanagan, Senior Correspondent |

Karli Oppler and friends walked the windswept beach in Lavallette as Gov. Phil Murphy stood atop a man-made dune scanning the $128 million beach replenishment and storm defense network that was built to harden 14 miles of northern Ocean County coastline after Superstorm Sandy. A few sunbathers dotted beaches the Army Corps of Engineers expanded by a couple hundred feet.

“The beach was really eaten away. So it’s kind of nice now that it’s restored. It’s a lot better,” said beachgoer Karli Oppler.

“I think we can go out on the limb and say that the beaches have never been in the shape they’re in right now,” Murphy said. “This is a big deal, important part of our economy and a part of our culture and society.”

“Beach replenishment and renourishment is about more than sand and dunes. It’s one of the most cost effective ways to shield our homes, our businesses, our iconic boardwalks and coastal towns from powerful storms,” said Sen. Bob Menendez.

But while shore folks eagerly anticipate a trouble-free tourist season, Trenton’s budget season’s already fraught. One sore point is an ad, produced by the dark-money group, New Direction New Jersey.

Murphy’s decision to star in a spot promoting his proposed millionaire’s tax expansion drew a sharp rebuke from Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, who according to Politico said he’s “ … disappointed that allies of the Governor continue to spend money from undisclosed donors, for the purpose of dividing legislators,” noting, “ … there are legitimate policy differences in the most highly taxed state in the Union.”

It’s the second budget cycle that New Direction’s done this to the angst of many Democrats in the Legislature.

“I don’t think this is controversial at all. They’re incredibly upbeat commercials. 72% of the people of the state want this, including a majority of Republicans. These guys have voted for it five times under a different governor. I’m not poking anything,” said Governor Murphy.

The governor again defended his decision to appoint a task force to investigate how state’s Economic Development Authority earmarked billions in tax breaks for corporations. Feeling targeted by the probe, South Jersey power broker George Norcross sued Murphy to block it. Published reports show companies with Norcross connections collected the lion’s share of EDA incentives. Murphy’s hired defense attorney Ted Wells — the top investigator in the New England Patriots’ Deflategate scandal. Murphy, one reporter pointed out, is a Patriots fan.

“I appreciate that. Listen, we will defend vigorously our right to establish that because I have no other choice. I’d be abrogating my responsibility not to ask an independent group to establish where all this money went,” Murphy said.

The governor says he plans to fight for a millionaire’s tax increase and he’s threatened to veto a budget that doesn’t have one.