Murphy’s address will set agenda, but will it make nice?

BY David Cruz, Senior Correspondent |

As first years go, Gov. Phil Murphy’s has had its ups and downs.

He had some early victories: Equal pay legislation, paid sick leave, a millionaire’s tax, restoring funding for women’s health care, expanding the medical marijuana program, rejoining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, among others.

But as the year moved on, things started to slow down and the governor’s poor relationship with Senate President Steve Sweeney has made more news than any of their accomplishments.

So, who cares if they don’t get along, you may ask. Well, it kind of does matter, as Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg explained Monday.

“I don’t think they need to care about the personal relationship; it’s not of great importance. But what people need to care about is getting the appropriate legislation passed because it takes give and take, compromise, to get to $15 an hour for our workers. It takes compromise and give and take to get a cannabis piece of legislation passed, so that’s why people should care,” said Weinberg.

The governor and Sweeney have not come to terms on either bill and Murphy is counting on revenue from a legal marijuana sales tax. It’s not a lot, something like $80 million in a $38 billion budget, but it’s still money that has to be made up. And the $15 an hour minimum wage speaks directly to the “stronger, fairer” New Jersey the governor always talks about.

A lot of us will also be watching the governor’s speech for tone. Like, will Murphy be combative, or directly challenge lawmakers. His predecessor liked to do that when he was pushing specific bills, but Murphy is no Christie in the bullying department, so we’ll see how, or if, he tries to goose them into action.

And then there’s the national audience. Will Murphy speak to it as a potential national candidate? Murphy is taking over as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association next year, and that’s going to give him a national platform.

Will he bash President Donald Trump tomorrow? Probably.

Will he start a Murphy for president, or vice president, campaign? Maybe.

And lastly, looming over the administration right now are the Katie Brennan hearings and more reports of a campaign that tolerated an environment that was — for women — uncomfortable at best and hostile at worst.

For a progressive governor who swept into office with 58 percent of female voters, that is not an insignificant thing, and it will be interesting to see if the governor has anything to say about that.