Murphy’s first year ending with a whimper
TRENTON — Phil Murphy is wrapping up his first year as New Jersey Governor, and he has little to show for it.
The state Assembly meets Monday for its final voting session of the year, and none of Murphy’s major initiatives is on the agenda.
There will be no vote on legalizing marijuana.
No vote on hiking the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
Murphy’s staff met with legislative staff last week, but could not come to agreement on either measure. Murphy himself met with Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and Senate President Steve Sweeney. It was their first face-to-face meeting since October.
By all accounts, the meeting was cordial, but distant. Says one source, "He (Murphy) seemed perplexed over why they (Sweeney and Coughlin) could not come to agreement, and frustrated the legislature won’t do what he wants."
All new governors go through a period of adjustment and growing pains, but insiders say they have not seen this level of dysfunction in modern times.
Jon Corzine, who also had a background as a Wall Street mogul, had difficulty transitioning into the operation of state government. The difference, insiders say, was Corzine had strong managers around him that could at least manage day-to-day functions of the administration.
Jim McGreevey never quite managed to transition out of campaign mode when he was elected, but he was also able to bring in strong managers and build a solid coalition of democratic legislators.
Murphy, they say, has instead brought in like-minded progressives who believe in his progressive agenda, but have no real experience in actually governing. Those same individuals have even less experience navigating the world of politics, and struggle to create allies in the legislature.
Murphy has further been hampered by a legislative investigation into his hiring practices, and how he and his staff handled a credible rape allegation made by one staffer against another. His senior staff awkwardly tried to pressure the legislature not to hold hearings, but lacking allies among Senate and Assembly staff, their fumbling entreaties fell on deaf ears.
Most believe a staff shakeup in the Murphy administration is likely in the new year. Murphy will almost certainly have a new Chief of Staff. Whoever takes over that critical role, insiders say he or she will need to bring in a staff that has both strong managerial skills and is politically astute enough to gain the respect of the legislature.
If not, Murphy will likely become a caretaker governor without the political clout to accomplish many of his goals as he envisioned.
Eric Scott is Vice President, Senior Political Director and Director of Special Projects for New Jersey 101.5. He anchors "New Jersey's First News" and weekday morning newscasts from 5 to 10 a.m., in addition to hosting a monthly Town Hall series.
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