Immigration and taxation were the top issues Tuesday night as Gov. Phil Murphy fielded questions on a call-in show hosted by News 12 New Jersey.
The governor said the way to control property taxes is to give more state aid to local schools. But he is keenly aware of the limited funds at the state’s disposal.
“We have a $35 billion budget in our state. At one level, it’s a bunch of zeros in a thick book that makes your eyes glass over. At another level, it screams out our priorities: who do we care about, whose back should government have. And I’m not a miracle worker because we are constantly short of money,” said Murphy.
Some of the immigration questions were pointed.
“Why does he feel it is better to protect illegally entered people from the other countries and continue to take my money and give it away to those who don’t work,” one viewer wrote in.
Murphy replied, “My job is to care about all nine million residents in the state, every single one of them.”
“I’m really interested, governor, in your sanctuary city. That really bothers me a lot about having them,” one caller said.
Murphy said we should stop using the term “sanctuary city” and start calling them “welcoming cities.”
“If you have a community where folks have a confidence that they can step out of the shadows regardless of their status and engage with neighbors, community activists, law enforcement importantly, you have almost by definition a safer community,” said Murphy.
This was Murphy’s first call-in program since taking office.
Another topic was marijuana. Murphy wants to expand medical marijuana and legalize personal use.
“On the recreational side, the big issue for me is social justice. We have the widest white-nonwhite incarceration gap in America. That’s not the only reason, but it’s the biggest reason. If we were to pursue this, by the way if we do, when we do, it has to be done right,” said Murphy.
There were no new specifics, just a lot of passion and aspiration. Next month’s budget presentation looms large.
“We got to get back to prioritizing, saying, ‘What is the government of this state here for?’ In my opinion, it’s here for those who have nowhere else to turn and to put wind in the sails again of the middle class, and those who were born with the dream like I was in my family to get into the middle class,” said Murphy.
Chris Christie pioneered the monthly governor call-in show. It’s Murphy’s show now.