Governor-elect Phil Murphy was voted into office on the strength of a progressive agenda. That stands in sharp contrast to that of Chris Christie. Rep. Frank Pallone, since he was first elected in 1988, has watched the transitions of seven New Jersey governors. Last week, Senior Correspondent David Cruz asked Pallone the implications of this transition.
Pallone: Well, I think Phil’s going to be a great governor. I wasn’t at the League of Municipalities because we were voting this week, so you haven’t seen me there. I haven’t been there in years because we always vote in Washington. But, I think Phil’s going to be great. I mean, Phil is really focused on the economy and trying to improve New Jersey’s economy and look for new ways to create jobs, and I also think he’s very good on the environment. One of the things that I’ve been concerned about is that Gov. Christie bothers the office of climate change. He withdrew us from the RGGI, which is the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a group of states who got together called RGGI. So, he has promised to bring us back into the regional greenhouse gas agreement. He said he’s going to reopen the office of climate change which I think is very important for New Jersey because, as you know, our coastal areas face sea level rise and these huge storms like Sandy. And, also he talks a lot about education. Again, I am at Monmouth University, and one of the things he’s talked about is trying to improve affordability for higher education, free community college tuition and more help with attending four-year universities, as well. So, I’m really excited about his being the governor.
Cruz: This tax plan that just got approved this week could also have some implications for this new governor’s hope to raise taxes on millionaires and so on. He’s got a very progressive agenda that he’s going to try to implement and it’s going to require extra money.
Pallone: Well, he has talked about a tax, or like a surcharge, on millionaires, but again as I’ve been trying to stress the federal government tax plan, the Republican tax plan, most of the benefit in terms of tax cuts is going to millionaires. So, to be perfectly honest, I think that millionaires get a very good deal out of this Republican federal tax proposal. So, I think it’s only fair that in order to try to accomplish some of the things that Phil Murphy wants to do, if the state goes ahead and imposes a surcharge on millionaires, I think it’s only fair that they pay their fair share to help move the state forward.
Cruz: You think there’s a possibility that this new governor’s going to have some impact on a green industry in New Jersey, maybe help to promote that?
Pallone: Oh definitely. One of the things that he talks about all of the time is a new master energy plan and really stressing renewables. New Jersey has huge resources of offshore wind that can be tapped, and we have the ability to manufacture the wind turbines, the solar panels. It’s a huge job creation engine and he really wants to focus on that and prioritize that, which again was lapsed under Chris Christie. So, that’s another thing that I think can make a difference in improving the economy.
Cruz: And of course the other big headline this week happened yesterday, the mistrial and the corruption trial of a friend of yours and colleague, Sen. Bob Menendez. What are the implications of that do you think?
Pallone: Well, I always felt that he was innocent of those charges. I certainly hope that the federal government or that the prosecutors don’t try to try him again because as I think you know, the jury, 10 were in favor of dismissal and only two were leaning towards finding him guilty of some of the charges. And, I felt from the very beginning that the charges were bogus. So, I’m just looking forward to Bob Menendez running again for U.S. Senate and I’ve already told him that I fully support him and expect him to run again in November. And, he’s in a very important position in the Senate. He’s on the Finance Committee. If we take the majority, he could be the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. So, he can really make a difference and has in the past in helping our state.
Cruz: Does it say anything about the fact that people seem to be cheering this hung jury? I mean, I guess you’d have to have a really weak case if you can’t convict a public official nowadays of corruption because folks seem to be ready to believe the worse about every elected official, yet here they were, they had 10 people and a 12 person jury ready to acquit this guy.
Pallone: Well, I think that if they interviewed that one juror who left because they had some agreement for her to go on vacation and she spoke about what was happening in the jury room. And, I think the feeling was that the government was overreaching. In other words, they were making these charges, they didn’t have any direct evidence of what they were accusing him of and I think the jury got the impression, which I agree with, that the government really was charging him improperly. So they essentially sided with him saying look you’re being railroaded. And, that’s clearly what the jury felt and I think they were right. At least 10 of them felt that way, 10 of the 12.
Cruz: Let me ask you one more question before we get you out of here. I guess it’s going to be in December when a vote on net neutrality is expected. I know this is an issue that’s been close to you as well.
Pallone: Yes. This concerns me a great deal, David. As you know during the Obama administration, the FCC, the Federal Communications Commission, issued an order which became law basically enshrining the idea of a free and open internet. The idea that your internet provider couldn’t charge more to speed up something or to not charge more for certain content — they couldn’t block content, I should say. And, now Trump has basically said that he wants the FCC to reverse that, and it looks like they will. They got 23 million people that commented mostly saying that they support net neutrality and a free and open internet, but, yet the FCC’s determined to move ahead and we’re hearing they might rescind the net neutrality order sometime before Christmas. So, I’m going to continue to speak out against that because I really think this is basic to democracy. If they can block the content, and decide for ideological reasons what they’re going to show or not show, or they can charge more to speed up the internet for certain services. I think the internet is really important for people in terms of the ability to find a job. Again, going back to education, we have a lot of people that get their education online. For businesses, particularly small businesses, to sell things and a free and open internet, I think, is very important for our democracy and for our market economy, frankly. So I’m going to continue to oppose this effort to repeal net neutrality.
Cruz: Alright, Congressman Frank Pallone, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us.
Pallone: Thank you so much, David. Take care.