🔵 The annual State of the State address was Gov. Murphy's first in-person address to the Legislature in 3 years

🔵 Without naming him, Murphy mocked a line by Fla. Gov. Ron DeSantis

🔵 Republicans challenged Murphy's rosy picture of New Jersey today

TRENTON — Gov. Phil Murphy, considered a potential Democratic presidential candidate, took a slightly veiled shot at another contender for the White House during the annual State of the State address on Tuesday.

“Some governors boast that their state is where 'woke goes to die.' I’m not sure I know what that’s supposed to mean,” Murphy said in his first in-person address to the Legislature since the pandemic.

Murphy was citing the line used by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis during his re-election victory speech in November.

“But I can tell you very confidently," Murphy added. "New Jersey is where opportunity lives, where education is valued, where justice is embraced, where compassion is the norm, and where the American Dream is alive and well.”

Murphy’s dig at the man considered by many to be Trump’s Republican heir came at the end of the address and stood in contrast to the beginning of the speech when he touted his working relationship and admiration for Republican Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, who serves as vice chairman of the National Governors Association, which Murphy leads.

“Let us never forget that in the grand ranking of things we are partisans fourth, elected officials third, New Jerseyans second, and Americans first and foremost,” Murphy said to a standing ovation from both sides of the aisle.

Video still from NJ Office of Governor
Video still from NJ Office of Governor

🔵 Murphy vs. DeSantis

DeSantis won a second term in November, handily defeating Democratic former Gov. Charlie Crist by nearly 20 points.

Murphy won his re-election in 2021 but not by the same margins. The progressive Democrat defeated Republican candidate Jack Ciattarelli by 3 percentage points. When he first ran in 2017, Murphy's margin was 14 points.

It is not clear whether DeSantis would challenge Trump if the twice-impeached former president decided to make a third bid for the White House. Murphy has said that he expected President Joe Biden to run again and that he would not challenge the Democratic standard-bearer in the primary.

Video still from NJ Office of Governor
Video still from NJ Office of Governor
Video still from NJ Office of Governor
Video still from NJ Office of Governor

🔵 What New Jersey can expect from Murphy

During the speech, Murphy returned to his usual themes about growing the middle class and addressed crime, stating “New Jersey is a safer state today.”

Murphy said next month he would propose a “Boardwalk Fund” to revitalize what he called the Jersey Shore’s “wooden Main Streets.”

The biggest news was his proposal to overhaul New Jersey’s Prohibition-era liquor license laws, stating that he would want to see a free-market approach.

Anticipating friction from the state’s liquor license holders – some of whom have invested upwards of half a million dollars to purchase the scarce licenses to serve wine, beer and booze – Murphy said he would propose a special tax credit.

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🔵 Republicans challenge Murphy's rosy picture

Assemblywoman Victoria Flynn and Assemblyman Gerry Scharfenberger, both Republicans from Monmouth County, said Murphy's speech was "not based in reality," pointing to his cuts to education funding from many school districts.

"We have the highest property taxes in the nation and ranked 50th overall in business climate – this will not be corrected without real action,” Scharfenberger said.

“The governor should stop marketing himself for national audiences and instead get to work to solve the issues facing the state. Crime is through the roof, healthcare costs are skyrocketing and schools are seeing historic funding reductions yet nothing is being done."

State Sen. Anthony Bucco, R-Morris, said New Jersey residents "are worried that the Murphy administration has enabled a sense of lawlessness throughout the state."

"After Gov. Murphy granted early release to thousands of inmates and tied the hands of police when dealing with rowdy teens, New Jersey witnessed a surge in crime, including an epidemic of car thefts and home invasions," Bucco said.

Every NJ city and town's municipal tax bill, ranked

A little less than 30 cents of every $1 in property taxes charged in New Jersey support municipal services provided by cities, towns, townships, boroughs and villages. Statewide, the average municipal-only tax bill in 2021 was $2,725, but that varied widely from more than $13,000 in Tavistock to nothing in three townships. In addition to $9.22 billion in municipal purpose taxes, special taxing districts that in some places provide municipal services such as fire protection, garbage collection or economic development levied $323.8 million in 2021.

Sergio Bichao is the digital managing editor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at sergio.bichao@townsquaremedia.com

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