TRENTON – State of the State speeches by their nature are often a rose-colored look back at past accomplishments and the present outlook, given that they’re almost always delivered by the incumbent governor.

That was, in particular, the case for Gov. Phil Murphy’s fourth such speech, delivered after he won re-election and one week before he’s sworn in for a second term. For the second straight year, the address was pre-recorded – and focused in large part on the pandemic, the reason the event had gone virtual.

But Murphy did say one new item that will be on his 2022 agenda is the cost of prescription drugs, promising to send the Legislature a plan to address their affordability.

“This effort will be centered on making pricing across the entire supply chain more transparent, so we can see what drives drug prices higher, and so then we can lower them,” Murphy said.

“Lower costs will save families hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars a year,” he said. “But, across the programs our state administers – from Medicaid and FamilyCare for low-income families, to PAAD and Senior Gold for older residents – lower costs can save us, and you, untold millions in tax dollars.

“Containing and lowering health care and prescription drug costs isn’t just good for your family’s health and bottom line, it’s also good for our state’s,” Murphy said.

Murphy yet again urged the Legislature to take up the next proposed set of gun bills he is seeking.

“We cannot go another year without closing dangerous loopholes, or requiring safety education for would-be gun buyers, giving law enforcement new tools to go after criminals, and banning super-high-caliber weapons which have no place in the woods for hunting, let alone on our streets,” he said.

The bills might stand a better chance now that the Senate president is Nicholas Scutari, rather than Steve Sweeney, who was reluctant to advance them.

Murphy reiterated a commitment made during last year’s campaign to not include any tax increases in the proposed budget he will introduce next month, reflective of the shift of his focus and message to the economy and affordability.

Three times in the State of the State, Murphy crowed that New Jersey’s economic growth has gone from 47th in the country when he took office to 4th. He said the Innovation Evergreen Fund launching this year will keep the momentum by supporting new tech startups.

“We don’t want New Jersey to just be a place where businesses move to, we want to be the place where they are born and grow,” Murphy said.

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Assembly Minority Leader John DiMaio, R-Warren, said the 47th place ranking was over a nine-year span while the recent fourth-place ranking was over a three-month period. He said it’s easy to pick “one rosy quarter” and that the ranking could be fleeting given how the pandemic is distorting the economy and economic data.

“It’s rather disingenuous because frankly it’s not real,” DiMaio said. “It’s not over a long enough period of time to judge where we’re really at.”

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com.

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