TRENTON, N.J. — The Democratic candidate running to succeed Republican Gov. Chris Christie said Monday that voters should judge him on whether he grows the state’s economy and whether it becomes “fair.”
Phil Murphy, a former Obama administration ambassador to Germany and Goldman Sachs executive, avoided specifics, telling The Associated Press that his plan to grow the infrastructure and innovation economies couldn’t be boiled down to one legislative or regulatory change.
But he said he plans to raise the minimum wage, address earned sick leave and restore funding to Planned Parenthood. He also said he plans to ramp up funding of the pension, which could take longer than a year, and he wants school aid increased “immediately.”
Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who’s also running for the seat, has attacked Murphy over the projected costs of his proposals. Her campaign hasn’t responded to requests from the AP to reschedule an interview after two previous interviews were canceled.
Murphy faces Guadagno on Nov. 7.
FULLY FUNDED DEFINED
Murphy said it would take longer than a year to accomplish one of his central promises to fully fund the pension, but he said fully funding the state’s education formula would be done “immediately.”
Murphy’s central pitch has been fully funding the state’s public pension and increasing state aid to schools by applying a funding formula established in 2008 but not fully paid for by Christie, who is term-limited.
Fully funding those items would entail increasing the pension payment from about $2.6 billion this fiscal year under Christie to more than $5 billion and increasing education funding by about $1 billion annually.
Murphy left unclear whether he would follow the ramped-up payment schedule Christie has adopted on the pension and did not account for how he would reach the estimated $3 billion to $4 billion in increased costs for retirements and education.
His plan calls for $1.3 billion in new revenue, including an increase in income tax rates for those making more than $1 million annually.
Guadagno has not specified whether she would fully fund schools or the pension but has attacked Murphy over the projected cost of the proposals. Instead, she is calling for an audit of state government that she says would help pay for her property reduction tax plan.
HOLDING HIMSELF ACCOUNTABLE
Murphy declined to cite a way for voters to hold him accountable, saying it would be difficult to measure success early on because the changes would take time.
“I think voters should look to whether we’ve established the inputs we think are needed to get the desired outputs over time,” he said, describing those outputs as economic growth and a fairer economy.
Asked whether there was a bill or regulatory change he would implement to achieve the restoration of what he has termed the infrastructure and innovation economies, Murphy said, “there isn’t to be honest.”
Murphy instead cast New Jersey under the Christie administration as “undermanaged” and emphasized his promises to increase the minimum wage and pass earned sick leave legislation.
“It’s a cluster of economic steps,” he said. “And I think separately it’s a cluster of steps that are getting back to standing for the right things again, so that would include things like funding Planned Parenthood, signing sensible gun safety laws, taking the steps on climate.”
Guadagno has said she would not run for re-election if she doesn’t lower property taxes.
TRUMP AND GATEWAY
A regular critic of President Donald Trump who has promised to oppose the White House on immigration, health care and taxes, Murphy expressed optimism that he could still work with the administration to fund the roughly $30 billion Gateway tunnel between New Jersey and New York.
“I’m not a Trump guy and I don’t agree with him on almost anything but on that scenario I would hope that we could work together,” Murphy said.
The Obama administration had pledge to fund half of the Gateway project, with New York and New Jersey splitting the remaining costs, but no funding sources had been identified. The federal government and the states had similarly not yet identified how they would pay for the project.
Murphy also said the governor’s relationship with the congressional delegation resulted in the state not getting its “fair share” of tax dollars.
“You gotta use the federal delegations wisely and aggressively,” he said.
Murphy said he would decide the day after the election, if he wins, on whether he would live in the governor’s residence, Drumthwacket, in Princeton. Christie opted to continue to live in his Mendham home.
On the Island Beach State Park governor’s residence, which was the setting for now-infamous photos of Christie lounging on the beach during a government shutdown, Murphy said he would consider opening it for use by the developmentally or physically disabled.
Regarding trips on a state police helicopter now frequently used by Christie, Murphy suggested he would not use it the way Christie has, including for trips to New York for TV interviews.
“It doesn’t feel right to be me honestly,” he said. “I think if I were going to New York City to argue for the money to build the Gateway tunnel with a New York delegation that would be one thing as opposed to something political or certainly personal”
Guadagno has said she would sell the island Beach property. She also has taken shots at Christie for using the helicopter, but has not said specifically whether she would discontinue using it. A message to Guadagno on whether she would live at Drumthwacket has not been returned.
For more on the New Jersey governor’s race, go to https://www.apnews.com/tag/NewJerseyGovernor’sRace