NEWARK – Former Ambassador Phil Murphy took the stage on Thursday at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) to detail the economic plan he would implement if elected as the next governor of New Jersey.
According to Murphy, New Jersey needs an “innovation economy” that will draw new businesses and investment into the Garden State. The gubernatorial hopeful said that the state needs to invest in K-12 education that focuses on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). The candidate said that such investments—paired with expansions to programs like vocational/technical courses, lowered cost of pubic college, student debt relief and pipelines between schools and private groups to help job security upon graduation—will help New Jersey reattain status as a center for economic growth. He said that STEM investments will also keep intelligent young people in New Jersey where they can continue to contribute to the economy.
“My vision is clear: nothing less than to return our state to the proper place as a driver of innovation,” Murphy said. According to Murphy, one of his first initiatives as governor will be to create an “innovation cabinet.”
One of the ways Murphy proposed to generate funds to pay for innovation-fueling programs is the creation of a state bank similar to the Bank of North Dakota. According to Murphy, the creation of a bank owned by state residents will “put New Jersey’s resources to work for New Jersey.” The North Dakota state bank was chartered in 1919 and it is the only bank of its kind in the nation.
“It is time to bring the money home so it can build our future. We will do this by redirecting resources to a bank that is committed to making investments in and for New Jersey because it will be owned by the people of New Jersey,” Murphy told the crowd at NJIT. He said that the money generated would be directed to main street, student programs, and infrastructure. He also said that the public bank would be vital for growing small business in New Jersey because loans would no longer have to go through “Wall Street bond houses” and will instead stay between the state bank and local community banks.
“I propose a public bank not as a competitor… but as a complimentary tool to fill a gaping void,” Murphy said. “It is the type of big thinking we need to get back to in this state.”
Other areas of focus for Murphy’s economic plan include an investment in low-wage workers in order to allow them to be part of a growing economy. In order to create that greater economic role, Murphy said that the state minimum wage needs to be boosted to a “living wage,” there needs to be an expansion in earned income tax credit, an expansion in paid sick leave to low-wage workers and an assurance of equal pay for equal work for men and women.
Murphy said that he will also generate additional revenue in New Jersey by eliminating tax cuts for millionaires and closing loop-holes for corporations based in New Jersey. The candidate said that arguments that such changes encourage companies to flee the state are flawed. He supported that claim by citing GE’s move from New Jersey to the Boston, Mass. area, another high-cost region of the country. He said that the real reason businesses are fleeing New Jersey is the lack of cities that take advantage of things like proximity to New York and Philadelphia, lack of urban centers and transportation holes that leave much of the state disconnected. According to Murphy, if such issues are addressed in the state through investments to areas like Trenton, Newark and Camden, businesses will flock to N.J. despite lack of tax exemptions.
While Murphy addressed the need for higher taxes on the wealthy, the candidate did not address reduction in taxes for the everyday New Jersey resident. The current administration of Governor Chris Christie has put a heavy focus on tax stabilization and has recently focused on ways to reduce property taxes and eliminate things like the estate tax for New Jersey residents.
Murphy’s economic plan also touched briefly on increased investments in solar and wind energy but he did not focus on other environmental measures.
Murphy said that investments in New Jersey need to be made by the next governor lest the state continue to stagnate.
“We cannot continue to kick the can down the pothole filled road and hope for a miracle,” he said.
As of now, Murphy is the only declared Democratic gubernatorial candidate for the 2017 governor’s race. He is likely to be joined in the June 2017 primary by a number of Democrats from throughout New Jersey including Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and Senate President Steve Sweeney, among others.