New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy (D) delivered the 2023 New Jersey State of the State address on January 10, 2023, to the New Jersey General Assembly. Murphy began the speech by discussing the Russo-Ukrainian War and offering New Jersey’s support for Ukraine while showing support for New Jersey’s LGBTQ community. Murphy also discussed serving as the Chair of the National Governors Association with Vice-Chair Governor Spencer Cox (R) of Utah in the audience. Murphy discussed prior accomplishments and laid out the vision for policy priorities during the 2023 session.
Murphy discussed the creation of the ANCHOR property tax relief program, which invested $2 billion directly into property tax reductions. Murphy stated that this impacted nearly 2 million middle-class and working-class residents. The ANCHOR relief program also gave nearly 1 million state renters a cushion on rent hikes and was extended to February 28. Murphy also discussed numerous 2022 state tax relief measures, such as the child tax credit and the sales tax holiday on back to school items for students.
Murphy also talked about New Jersey’s efforts to end the “epidemic of gun violence”, pointing to the state’s strong gun safety laws and citing shootings down 26% and gun homicides down 17%. Since then, the state has grown the Auto Task Force to disrupt car theft rings, including adding new detectives and prosecutors, also revising the state’s pursuit policies to allow the pursuit of stolen vehicles. The state allocated $10 million in federal American Rescue Plan funds to purchase and install automated license plate recognition technologies for local police to track stolen cars and shuttle cars for car thieves into these targeted neighborhoods. These steps helped decrease car thefts by 13 percent from September to December 2021.
Murphy noted the signing of a comprehensive police licensing framework into law, which ensured that law enforcement officers were recognized as highly trained and skilled professionals and held officers to high and uniform standards. Also discussed was how the expansion of the ARRIVE Together program to pair law enforcement with mental health screeners to respond to individuals in a behavioral health crisis.
Garden State Greenway
Murphy emphasized a desire to continue providing families with spaces to play and exercise safely, announcing the final purchase of the land that will become the Garden State greenway, nine miles of abandoned railroad track bed from Montclair to Jersey City into a linear park meant to dwarf Manhattan’s High line.
The Opioid Epidemic
Opioid deaths from 2017 to 2021 remained relatively constant after considerable increases in the previous five years; more than 3,000 New Jersey residents died of opioid overdoses in three of those four years. In 2022, there were 231 fewer drug-related deaths than in 2021, the lowest since 2017. Nevertheless, Murphy reiterated that the fight is not over till the number of deaths is 0. In 2023, Murphy plans to bring new resources to the opioid battle, such as allowing any pharmacy to provide anonymous and free access to Naloxone (Narcan) to anyone.
Murphy noted that Covid remains a public health reality and that the state has Covid vaccines available and encouraged everyone to get booster shots and flu shots.
Economy and Projects
Murphy discussed how flawed the state economic development system was before his administration. Murphy argued that instead of asking what New Jersey would look like in 40-50 years, previous administrations provided significant tax breaks to large corporations to use in campaign commercials. Murphy went on to reaffirm that he and Tim Sullivan, the Economic Development Authority CEO, have worked to overhaul the entire system of economic incentives to make them more responsive to economic realities. They also created a “first in the nation public-private venture fund”. Murphy also noted that the new post-pandemic business environment has changed from physical offices for some to permanent remote working. The modernization of infrastructure and the breaking ground of the new Portal North Bridge are significant steps in New Jersey’s economic growth.
The long-awaited new rail tunnels under the Hudson River are also moving forward. In partnership with New York, Amtrak, their congressional delegation, and the Biden administration, New Jersey received a $292 million federal grant, the first of many awards to complete the project. There will be fewer delays, and commuters on the Raritan Valley line will have a one-seat ride into Penn Station, New York. Murphy noted his proposed budget will include a new boardwalk fund that would partner with shore towns and counties to make vital upgrades. The budget will advocate that boardwalks are essential to the state as it connects the beaches to local communities as a main street.
The state has grown new jobs for 31 consecutive months. The unemployment rate stands at 3.4%, the lowest since the pandemic and lower than the national rate. In Q3 2022, New Jersey’s GDP grew 3.9 percent above the level of Q2, the highest growth rate of any state in the northeastern United States and 10th in the nation. Murphy asserted that the state was primed to be a leader on the East Coast in offshore wind and component manufacturing and logistics for the wind industry. The state is also growing the adult-use cannabis industry.
Murphy discussed how New Jersey had provided $1 billion for downtowns to be renovated and restored from the economic impacts of the pandemic. The 2022 holiday season saw downtowns bustling again.
Murphy emphasized that the state’s current liquor laws were written after prohibition and could not be used to govern a 21st-century economy. The administration plans to modernize the liquor laws and increase fairness. Murphy contended that the old rules created scarcity and have driven liquor licenses to cost up to seven figures. Murphy claimed that expanding liquor licenses would keep restaurants healthy and grow the economy. Murphy predicts this liquor license overhaul would create upward of 10,000 jobs and generate $10 billion in new economic activity and $1 billion in new state and local revenue over the next decade.
Murphy plans to gradually remove the current liquor license restriction, 1 per 3000 citizens, until the restriction is eliminated. To be fair to current license holders, Murphy plans to offer these businesses a targeted tax credit to support them as the licensed supply grows. Furthermore, the administration plans to remove outdated licensing and operating restrictions on craft breweries, distilleries, and wineries around the state.
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