Philip Dunton Murphy was sworn in as New Jersey’s 56th governor, vowing to make good on economic promises unfulfilled by his Republican predecessor and counteract what he called catastrophic social and fiscal policy by the Trump administration.
Murphy, 60, a former U.S. ambassador to Germany and Goldman Sachs senior director, pledged to help foster a “stronger and fairer” New Jersey that creates higher-wage jobs, increases public-school funding, provides free access to community college, helps small businesses and ensures the wealthiest pay “their fair share” in taxes. He also spoke of legalizing marijuana and creating housing that is affordable and safe from lead.
“With the challenges facing our state and its people, our leadership and vision must once again align,” Murphy said. “For too long, too much has been done only for the short-term and only from self-interest.”
In November he defeated Christie’s lieutenant, Kim Guadagno, to replace the first Republican voted to the state’s highest office in a dozen years. Once among the nation’s most popular members of his party, Christie, 55, had his presidential bid derailed by fallout from the George Washington Bridge traffic-jam scandal. He left office the least popular New Jersey governor in 20 years of Quinnipiac University polling, with 15 percent job approval.
Murphy, a Boston-area native and married father of four children, credited fellow Democrats John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert for instilling his belief in social justice and economic fairness. The Bible on which he took the oath was used for the swearing-in of John Kennedy as president in 1960, according to inaugural program notes.
During Murphy’s speech at the War Memorial in Trenton, a block from the statehouse, he praised Christie for his work combating opioid addiction and for setting an example of how to parent in the public eye.
Murphy pledged to have a state budget “that is balanced fiscally and morally.” He asked lawmakers to send him bills to support women’s health, raise the minimum wage, assure every worked earned sick leave and improve voters rights and gun laws.
Some parts of Murphy’s agenda already may be in trouble.
The new governor has promised to institute a millionaire’s tax and legalize and tax recreational marijuana to help raise $1.3 billion in revenue. Senate President Steve Sweeney, a Democrat from West Deptford who controls the bills posted in the legislature’s upper house, has rolled back his support for the millionaire’s tax, saying that and federal tax changes may be too burdensome for New Jerseyans.
Murphy’s promise to legalize recreational pot and raise revenue from its taxation, also faces resistance. At Paradise Baptist Church in Newark on Monday, where Murphy appeared for a Martin Luther King Jr. Day service, Bishop Jethro James brought the crowd to its feet when he said marijuana sales would have a devastating effect on poor neighborhoods.
Sheila Oliver, 65, a former Democratic state Assembly speaker, will serve as Murphy’s lieutenant. He has named her community affairs commissioner, with oversight of local spending.