Gov. Phil Murphy was sworn in for his second term Tuesday, after becoming the first Democratic governor to win reelection in New Jersey in 44 years.
In his speech, he promised to lower property taxes, reduce health care costs and make college more affordable.
“I’m not going to be satisfied with just slowing property tax growth,” he said. “I want to get us to a place where we can begin to see them go down.”
Attendance at the event was relatively limited, due to the state’s current Covid surge, and when the small audience applauded, Murphy ad-libbed “Yeah! Enough already.”
Murphy won re-election more narrowly than was expected, and was criticized for being more progressive than the average New Jersey voter. Polls showed voters didn’t trust him to lower their taxes, but in his speech, he repeated a refrain from his election victory: that he was listening.
The inauguration also put on display the maturing of a political family. Murphy’s four children, aged 18-to-24, and First Lady Tammy Murphy offered short remarks, and much of the teenage awkwardness of previous events was gone. This time the Murphys looked comfortable, joking with one another.
Emma Murphy, 22, told the audience that in spite of her father’s demanding day job, he’s still a very present dad. “Each of us wakes up every morning to a text from dad, like clockwork, that is full of exclamation marks,” she said. More texts arrive if the first one isn’t answered promptly, she said.
In his speech, Murphy also got a bit more personal. He tied his policy goals for his second term to his own personal history growing up in a working poor family. “I put myself through college and graduate school through a combination of part-time jobs and student loans,” Murphy said. “And when I started my career, I started at the bottom.”
Murphy worked for Goldman Sachs, where he eventually rose through the ranks and became very wealthy. Before his retirement, it was reported he was worth $50 million. But he says the policies he pushed in his first term, and his aspirations for his second, all spring from his experience of achieving success despite humble beginnings.
“Yet today, the American Dream that worked for a family like mine feels out of reach for too many,” Murphy said. “I want this generation, and the generations that follow, to have the same shot to build a better life that I had.”
To that end, Murphy says he will focus on making life in New Jersey more affordable, and provide opportunities for residents to attain better jobs and better pay. He laid out the policies his administration enacted in his first term and promised it was the first half of a job that is not done.
In his first term, Murphy raised the minimum wage and taxes on the wealthy. He also devoted more of his budget to funding local schools and paying into the state’s underfunded pension system.
“The people of New Jersey want us to treat their tax dollars, whether they go to support their schools or improve their roads, as if they were our own,” Murphy said. “I pledge to you now, that the next four years will not see us stray from the path of fiscal responsibility that we are on.”
By the speech’s end, Murphy seemed to flirt with the national political stage. He insists he will not run for president whenever he is asked, but he clearly made the argument that he was creating a model for the rest of the country to follow.
“If you want to know what the future looks like, if you want to understand what America can be, come to New Jersey,” Murphy said. “Where Washington has bogged down, we have moved forward.”