Panel reacts to policies outlined in Murphy’s inaugural address

In just about a minute or so time, Gov. Phil Murphy laid out what are some of his top agenda priorities focusing on women’s health, promising that if the Legislature sends him bills to restore funding, it will be met with a ceremonial signing and not a veto.

Murphy: To my partners in the Legislature, I ask you to send me the bills, among others, to reaffirm our support for women’s health and Planned Parenthood. … A bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, you might as well stay up, a bill to promote equal pay for women, a bill to get every worker the piece of mind of earned sick leave, a bill to tear down the barriers to voting and a bill to strengthen our gun laws.

Vannozzi: An incredibly ambitious agenda, progressive agenda. Milly, is he speaking to the heart of the issues that New Jerseyans are worried about, these women’s health issues in particular.

Silva: I think absolutely. What we just heard from Gov. Murphy is that it’s possible to be both bold and realistic. So the fact that he announced he was going to be signing an executive order for equal pay for equal work is an important issue that women and men have been active on over the course of years and months, and now he’s going to sign an executive order. The idea that we actually have the opportunity for a path to $15 for working people across the state is incredible, especially when we know that in New York $15 is the minimum wage and it’s important that we have that in New Jersey. So I think that his message was one of hope. It’s inclusive and I didn’t hear “us” vs. “them”, I heard all of us so I am incredibly excited. I know that there are health care workers up and down the state, including our nursing and home care workers who are ready to work with his administration to make sure that the laws that he’s looking to enact in this state actually get signed. This is incredible. It’s an opportunity and I’m so excited as we move forward.

Hill: Patrick, I’m curious, where does Phil Murphy’s advocacy for women on these women’s issues come from? Do we know?

Murray: We really don’t know because here is somebody who is really new to the political scene. He was a democratic donor, a high-profile democratic donor, became ambassador to Germany, but that’s a diplomatic post. So he’s not had a political post. We don’t know where this came from except when he came onto the scene in New Jersey three years ago. Certainly, I think we’ve seen a lot with his wife being very present on the campaign trail, very present with him, and I think it’s very clear that she’s going to play a significant role in this administration, not just in support as a typical first lady, but also in terms of the policy direction.

Hill: How will that play, then, with the lieutenant governor, Sheila Oliver?

Murray: Well Sheila Oliver does have her job. This is DCA, she has a community affairs job, so I think that she wasn’t brought in specifically to be the conscience of Phil Murphy. I think very clearly he relies on his wife quite a bit, not just for the support that you would normally have, but for strategy, for policy, a whole host of things that I think we’re going to see her play a very, very significant role as an adviser to this administration.

Vannozzi: Phil Murphy also took a really strong stance resisting the Trump administration and a number of issues coming out of Washington.

Murphy: We will resist every move from President Trump and a misguided congressional leadership. … We will resist any moves that would worsen income inequality, or divide families or deny access to college for our Dreamers, or defund essential infrastructure, or gut health care for our children, seniors and the working poor. … We will resist the dangerous and wrong attempt to allow drilling for oil off our precious shore. … And we must reject the president’s dark belief of an America in decline and in carnage. Let there be no doubt, ours is an imperfect, but great, nation.

Vannozzi: Chris Russell, probably the only dark spot that that speech turned there. He’s got a Democratic-controlled legislature, every branch of government controlled by Democrats. So is that what he uses then to push back against this administration?

Russell: Well, listen, the fact that he has, the governor, now in place and a Democratic Legislature there are no excuses. Whatever he wants to get passed is going to get passed, so long as he can figure out how to work with the democratic Legislature. I think in terms of some of his remarks here, he started out talking a lot about bipartisanship and ended that way, but in the middle there was a lot of “us” and “them” and there was a lot of gauntlets thrown down in regard to how he sees the country and how he sees the state and that’s not going to help bring people together, it’s going to alienate a lot of people. The idea that Republicans, listen, I have two daughters, the idea that Republicans don’t want equal pay for women, the idea that Republicans don’t want good health care for people, that they don’t want a living wage, those are ridiculous sentiments. In fact, I mean, we have different ways of seeing these issues, different ways of approaching them, but I think what he did there in the middle was do a lot of Democratic talking points, a lot of partisan talking points. That’s not the way to extend the olive branch. In fact, it’s the way to poke someone with a stick in the eye. That’s not going to help starting out.

Hill: Chris, what do you see as the risk for Democrats that are in control now in running government in New Jersey? They control the Legislature, they control the governor’s mansion, what’s the risk?

Russell: The risk is they own it all. So to the extent things don’t go well and they don’t get things done, voters are going to have no one else to blame which is why you see in some of this laying the groundwork with the argument with Donald Trump that he wants to start, he’s looking to blame somebody right out the bat. Right now, the risk for Democrats is they own everything. If they want something done, they can get it done and voters will know who to blame. It’s going to be very simple to figure out.

Hill: I want to thank Chris Russell, of course Patrick Murray and Milly Silva.