St. James Church in Newark was rocking Wednesday morning in anticipation of Gov. Phil Murphy’s visit, where Murphy and his progressive agenda are popular.
“I thank God for a governor that is trying to lead this state to be a fairer state for everybody regardless of race, color or creed,” Rev. Ronald Slaughter, senior pastor at St. James AME in Newark, said.
Murphy chose the church to give an end of the year address that looked back on his first year in office.
“To be sure, we have made significant progress this year toward making a stronger and fairer state and to resetting the basic deal of fundamental fairness that New Jersey has had on the table for many years but which diminished over the past decade,” Murphy said.
Murphy proceeded to tick off nine accomplishments of his first year:
- An equal pay law
- Paid sick leave
- New gun safety measures
- Women’s health funding
- Measures to preserve the Affordable Care Act
- Efforts to improve racial disparities in maternal health
- Increased school funding and expanded pre-K
- A community college tuition initiative
- Efforts to improve performance at NJ Transit
Looking ahead to 2019, Murphy identified hiking the minimum wage and legalizing adult-use marijuana as top priorities.
“I remain optimistic that early in 2019 that I will sign a new law to put New Jersey on a clear and responsible path to a $15 an hour minimum wage,” Murphy said.
After the speech reporters were ushered to the church basement for some Q&A. A list of “all” his accomplishments adorned each seat — 99 accomplishments in all. He was asked if he learned anything about the job in his first year.
“First of all, I love it more than I thought I would. I love the job. It’s an extraordinary responsibility with as direct a line between an action you take and an impact on people’s lives. It’s extraordinary,” he said.
And you’re always learning, he said.
“You’re always trying to make your game better, so that’s not necessarily 2018 to 2019. I think about what happened Tuesday that I can be better with Wednesday — that’s an iterative process and I think we’re pretty good about looking ourselves in the mirror, being self-critical, asking the tough questions,” Murphy said.
Asked about his sometimes prickly relations with legislative leaders, he said they did fine at a meeting last Thursday.
“I hope it goes in a good direction. It’s professional. If you were all in the room, you would have been struck by how professional it was. Even when we were disagreeing, we weren’t disagreeable, and I hope we’re going to continue to be able to find common ground.”
Murphy said he’ll in Summit Thursday morning to sign a NJ Transit reform bill that passed the Legislature this week. On Friday, he and his family leave for a 10-day vacation in Tanzania.