New Jersey's a wrecked vehicle sitting on a used-car lot, dented on the outside, and broken on the inside. The previous owner plugged radiator leaks with sawdust, patched tires with chewing gum, and turned back the odometer rather than fix it.
Even though New Jersey's per-capita income makes it one of the wealthiest states in the nation, it has one of the highest debt rates. New Jersey depends on highways and mass transit for commerce, but its roads are worn out and its trains and buses can't keep up with demand. At times, they're even dangerous. Once a leader in environmental management, New Jersey has become a laggard, poorly prepared to battle even modest weather events.
The state's not hopeless, but it's going to cost a lot to recondition it for the road ahead.
That job requires the right governor. Someone who can take advantage of New Jersey's abundant resources, including its diverse and well-educated populace, innovative ideas, medical and technology leaders, and a prime location in the Northeast Corridor's population and market center.
PHIL MURPHY, a former Goldman Sachs executive and U.S. ambassador to Germany, has the skills and ideas for the job. The Democratic nominee promises to balance the state budget by imposing a millionaire's tax, closing corporate tax loopholes, and legalizing and taxing recreational marijuana. He would use the money to adequately fund public schools, fix roads and transit, and make payments to meet the state's growing pension obligation.
Committed to being a full-time governor, instead of abandoning the state to seek higher office, Murphy, 59, of Middletown, says he would again make the state a leader in environmental protection and economic growth. He would bolster the green economy and encourage renewable energy development by taking advantage of the state's 127 miles of windy Atlantic Ocean coastline, abundant sunshine, and robust engineering and science institutions.
Noting that median household incomes have slipped in recent years, Murphy says he would invest in people by raising the minimum wage, making college more affordable, and providing practical vocational training programs. He would also take a closer look at state tax breaks given to companies that in return are supposed to be creating decent-paying jobs.
Murphy's opponent is Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who has not distanced herself from the disastrous polices of Gov. Christie, which have reduced services and scrambled state finances. Worse, Guadagno undermined her credibility with a Willie Horton-type ad accusing Murphy of supporting murderous immigrants. The ad is such a desperate act, it was hard to believe Guadagno approved it. That she did proves she'd do anything to win, even spread ethnic fear and hatred.
Murphy wants to be governor to the state's entire population, including new and old immigrants. He has the right sensitivities, background, and priorities to govern. But to be effective, he also needs to resist his party's political bosses, hold his ground with special interests, and negotiate with unions for larger contributions from state workers for their health care and pensions.