January 7, 2018

What is Governor-Elect Phil Murphy’s Plan for N.J.?

David Wingens ‘19

On November 7, 2017, in a nearly 14-point landslide, Democrat Phil Murphy was elected governor of New Jersey. Murphy’s large margin of victory seems to suggest a ringing endorsement of the sweeping, progressive platform on which he campaigned. However, Murphy’s large victory cannot be allowed to shield his policy proposals from scrutiny.
One of his major proposals is to establish a publicly owned state bank. Currently, New Jersey invests money collected from taxes and fees in private banks such as the Wall Street banks Murphy used to work for. The idea of a public bank would be to invest that money back into New Jersey instead.
While this may be a good idea in theory, as it has the potential to stimulate the New Jersey economy while still generating money for the state to use, there is no guarantee that this proposal would work as well as imagined because it is largely untested.
It is nearly impossible to use other states as a guide as the only other state with such a bank is North Dakota. North Dakota is America’s fourth least densely populated state, with a population of around 750,000, and about 90 percent of its land being used for agriculture.
New Jersey, on the other hand, is America’s most densely populated state, with roughly nine million people, and about 17 percent of its land is farmland. Therefore, New Jersey and North Dakota cannot be compared in any meaningful way. Despite the fact that North Dakota’s bank has been a modest success, it is entirely possible that in New Jersey, it would not work successfully.
Additionally, New Jersey has a history of political corruption, so putting politicians in charge of a bank that has free reign over large sums of money is a recipe for disaster and even more rampant political corruption.
This idea has been a cornerstone of Murphy’s economic policy, which is strange because there was no previous desire for a public bank and it is not an idea that is necessarily easy for voters to grasp and support. Murphy, however, swears by this plan and claims that it will reduce Wall Street’s influence on the average New Jerseyan.
So, while this plan does seem a little far-fetched for a state like New Jersey, if Murphy can manage to execute it in the proper manner, it seems like it has the potential to be a success of which other states could build.
Aside from the public bank, Murphy has backed many traditional left-wing policies such as increased regulations on gun sales and a higher minimum wage. Murphy and democrats in New Jersey’s state assembly recently vowed to increase the minimum wage to $15 while raising taxes on the rich.
Murphy has also taken a strong stance on immigration. He promised that if necessary, he would make New Jersey into a “sanctuary state.” Sanctuary cities are cities that do not fully cooperate with federal law authorities to enforce immigration laws and they have been a huge point of contention between Democrats and Republicans for the last few years. It would be a monumental political maneuver to make New Jersey into a sanctuary state and it would certainly anger President Donald Trump and Republicans around the country. But Murphy is not really worried about making Republicans mad, as he has clearly tried to position himself as the polar opposite of Trump and the nativism he engenders.
Perhaps the position for which Murphy has become most well-known is his belief that we should legalize marijuana. Marijuana has already been legalized in eight states and Washington, D.C., but it is too early to see the long term effects of legalization in those states and territory.
What is clear, is that the war on drugs, including marijuana, has been a factor in the mass incarceration of black and hispanic people in America. Statistics show that black and hispanic people are incarcerated at much higher rates than white people for drug related crimes despite the fact that white people are just as likely to sell or consume drugs. Legalizing marijuana would certainly be a win for social justice in New Jersey.
Of course, there would be dangers to marijuana legalization, but marijuana is not inherently more dangerous than alcohol, which has been legal since America’s founding, save 13 years in the early 20th century.
Meanwhile, in New Jersey, as well as across America, there is a terrible epidemic of opioid addiction. This is not helped by mass incarceration of minorities for nonviolent marijuana-related offenses. Our resources would be much better spent dealing with opioids than marijuana.

Murphy’s election was largely a rebuke of President Trump and outgoing Governor Chris Christie, but that does not mean that Murphy does not have ideas of his own. Murphy plans to level the economic playing field in New Jersey, make New Jersey a safer place for immigrants and to try to begin to wind down the war on drugs, so that a more useful approach can be taken to the real issue of New Jersey’s opioid epidemic. Only time can tell how these policies will turn out, but Phil Murphy is bringing a progressive agenda back to New Jersey.

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