Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) visited Rutgers yesterday on his 100th day in office to reflect on his cabinet’s accomplishments since January, reiterate his policies and perspectives and highlight his visions for the future of New Jersey.
The event was presented by the Center on the American Governor at the Eagleton Institute of Politics, as well as Rutgers University Press.
Chancellor Debasish Dutta commenced the event with opening remarks about Rutgers students’ relationship with New Jersey, which was followed by Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) President Suzanne Link, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, who introduced the governor.
Murphy walked on stage sporting a suit paired with running shoes, a metaphor which he said symbolized the Garden State being “on the move."
The governor kicked off the event and said that in order to understand the current journey of New Jersey, he must first reflect on the condition that the state was left in. He said that when he took office, the people of New Jersey wanted a change — a change in attitude and a change in direction.
“On January 16, we herded a state that was not just pointed in the wrong direction, but was falling behind. Incomes were declining, job growth was in the bottom of the country, the economy was cooked to work for those at the very top. Schools were underfunded. Mass transit was a mess,” Murphy said. “(Citizens) questioned whether their best days were in the rear view mirror. They are not. They are decidedly ahead of us.”
Murphy said that the hole that New Jersey was in for the past eight years cannot be filled in just three months, but that it is a work in progress and that he plans to stay aggressive, especially in rejuvenating the job market and economy, raising the minimum wage and demanding fair pay for both men and women.
On Tuesday, the governor signed into law a bill that will ban employers from paying women anything less than their male counterparts in an effort to close the gender wage gap.
Signing the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act gives women the strongest equal pay protections in the country and will set a national standard against discrimination in the workplace, Murphy said.
Mass transit, a key component in getting people to their jobs every day, is another major point of focus for his administration, Murphy said.
In especially this state, he said there is a need for a reliable, safe mass transit system, pointing out that New Jersey is the fourth smallest state and also the densest state in the nation, in addition to sitting next to New York and Philadelphia.
Next, the governor said that he strives to create a more diverse group of New Jersey representatives with a cabinet team that reflects the state’s diversity and draws upon rich differences and life experiences.
Murphy said his team has made history with the most women appointed to the cabinet in state history, the nation’s first ever Sikh American attorney general, Gurbir Grewal, the state’s first Muslim American commissioner of Health, Dr. Shereef Elnahal, and the first Black adjutant general, Jemal Beale.
With regard to diversity among government leaders, he said, "we are not just making up for past inactions ... we are now setting the bar for other states."
Murphy highlighted one of his most recent accomplishments that aimed to diversify turnout at the polls — signing the automatic voter registration bill, a law that aims to draw a larger demographic of voters in a movement called “motor voter.”
“It is the first of hopefully many new laws to open up democracy,” he said.
Next, the governor reviewed his policy on gun violence and gun control, a nationally debated hot topic.
Murphy reiterated his firm commitment to approaching policies in a way that will combat the prevailing national gun violence issue and confront the “frustratingly continued absence of federal action.”
The governor said that he is seeing a sweeping package of common sense gun safety measures moving toward his desk, from closing loopholes in background check systems to lowering magazine capacities and tracking red flag legislation that will keep guns out of the hands of those who pose a threat to themselves and others.
“Make no mistake, when those bills get to me, I will sign each and every one of them,” he said.
Furthermore, he pointed out that more than approximately 80 percent of guns used to commit crimes in New Jersey come from out of state and that if he has to “name and shame” those states whose lax laws are hurting New Jersey communities, he will.
He plans on confronting President Donald J. Trump’s policies with his own strategies that will lead New Jersey in the right direction, Murphy said.
These counter policies include expanding Planned Parenthood, legalizing marijuana, ending mass incarceration, especially for people of color, reviewing criminal sentencing guidelines, protecting DREAMers, blocking drilling of the Jersey shore and creating a tax fairness system, Murphy said.
“With the turmoil in Washington and the seemingly never ending political convulsions, it has invariably fallen upon states to act. Right now, governors have never mattered more,” he said. “So when President Trump and Republicans are working at odds with our future and our values, whether it be on funding the gateway tunnel, or hurting our DREAMers or passing a tax plan that victimizes our middle class, we are fighting back.”
Murphy concluded that the state has a bright future, mentioning that as of today, Newark is a finalist for the location of Amazon’s second national headquarters, which would be economically transformative and reviving for the entire state.
With 1,365 days of his term left, 100 days is just a starting point, Murphy said.
“A new administration signals a new beginning, and we are embracing this opportunity,” he said.