Now that New Jersey will swear in a new Democratic governor Phil Murphy tomorrow to replace the widely reviled Chris Christie, the party controls all three branches of government, and Murphy reportedly has plans to take the state in a more progressive direction, and other states will be watching closely.
On Tuesday, when he is sworn in, New Jersey will become one of just eight states where Democrats run every branch of government. If Murphy has his way, New Jersey will become a proving ground for every liberal policy idea coming into fashion, from legalized marijuana to a $15 minimum wage, from a “millionaire’s tax” to a virtual bill of rights for undocumented immigrants.
Undergirding all of it: automatic voter registration, early voting and the right to register with a political party as late as Election Day.
“Somebody said to me at one point, ‘Hey, how come you haven’t moved to the middle since you won the primary?’ ” Murphy said. “I said, ‘Let me tell you the secret: I believed what I said in the primary.’ ”
“How do you jack up the number of incubators? How do you get venture money to be jazzed about this state?” Murphy said. “How do you make sure millennials find the communities they want to live in and use public transportation? How do you make sure the public schools remain some of the best in the country? We’re the most diverse state in the nation — that’s a huge leg up in that economy.”
He praised California and Minnesota, two states that got through the recession by raising taxes instead of cutting services, as his models.
“We are America’s number one turnaround story; that’s how I think about this,” Murphy said. “Eight years ago, that story was California. A state is below par, and new leadership is coming in to turn that around.”
One of the first “turnaround” priorities is equal-pay legislation, as Murphy has been saying, along with paid sick leave. Another turnaround priority is marijuana, which Murphy wants to legalize as soon as possible, as one way to fight a racial gap in criminal sentencing.
He will likely face some opposition even within his own party to some of these moves. But you have to start out strong if you are going to achieve anything at all.