One year into Murphy era, progressives ‘deeply disappointed’
A day before Gov. Phil Murphy delivers his first State of the State, progressive activists preempted the speech to deliver their own assessment: It’s not good.
Or, at least, it’s not as good as they expected it would be after the 2017 election, when New Jersey voters paired a liberal governor with a Democrat-dominated Legislature for the first time in more than a quarter-century.
At a Statehouse rally Monday, groups complained about inaction on marijuana legalization, racial justice, a $15 minimum wage, driver licenses for immigrants in the country illegally, voting rights and the environment.
The Rev. Charles Boyer, executive director of the group Salvation and Social Justice, said the good of the people shouldn’t take a second seat to political infighting.
“New Jersey believes itself to be a shining light of progressive principles and forward thinking,” said Boyer, who is pastor of Bethel AME Church in Woodbury. “Yet in a government monopolized by one party, we find ourselves virtually at a standstill on some of the most pressing policies of our day.”
Marcia Marley, president of BlueWaveNJ, emphasized the lack of progress on a $15 minimum wage, which was passed in 2016 but vetoed by then-Gov. Chris Christie.
“Over the last year, major legislation that has been promised or passed has been delayed or not introduced once we have a governor that will sign it,” Marley said.
Ryan Haygood, president and chief executive officer of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, noted 2019 is an election year for the state Assembly and said “not a seat in the Assembly is safe” unless incumbents earn the support of progressive activists.
“We have all in one way or another been deeply disappointed by the lack of progress that we’ve made in the last year, even as other states have made major steps in the direction that we were supposed to lead,” Haygood said.
Murphy was the direct target of some of the criticism, though.
Agnes Marsala, president of the group People Over Pipelines, said Murphy committed as a candidate to address natural-gas pipelines but that his Department of Environmental Protection hasn’t taken action.
“Your pussyfooting around sends a message to those career professionals that you don’t intend to steer the ship and state back towards safety and sanity,” Marsala said.
On a first-year environmental scorecard issued Monday, the Sierra Club gave Murphy a grade of D – for disappointment, said its director, Jeff Tittel.
“We’re running out of time and we’re running out of patience. You’ve made commitments to get things done in this state,” Tittel said. “Instead what we have seen has been more and more delays, excuses and a lack of action.”