State of the States: New Jersey

By: Michael Rummel

New Jerseyans will be voting on the 7th to replace their entire state government, and the results will shape the state’s economic future for the next few decades. The nation’s 10th most populous state is in dire straits financially and economically. New Jersey’s credit has been downgraded 11 times under the Christie administration, and graduating students are leaving the state at alarming rates. That’s already a significant challenge to deal with, but it gets worse. New Jersey’s education sector is underfunded by $9 billion dollars, and the state’s pension program is in a massive financial hole, leaving the financial future for tens of thousands of state employees in major jeopardy.

As a result, it’s no surprise that the person leading the race to replace Christie has a (D) beside their name. Phil Murphy looks set to win the gubernatorial election by a double digit margin, despite a spirited last ditch effort by Lt. Gov Kim Guadagno. Guadagno has never been able to shake her legacy as Christie’s Lt. Governor, and given Christie’s near single digit approval rating, it’s clear that this was always going to be an uphill battle.

Murphy’s platform has been focused largely on filling the gaps in New Jersey’s pension system, fully funding education, and trying to restore the dynamism of New Jersey’s economy by focusing on the tech sector and renewable energy. He also supports a phased in minimum wage raise to $15, and is looking to legalize marijuana. It’s a very forward looking and progressive platform, especially considering Murphy is a former Goldman Sachs employee. The struggle will be delivering these promises. He will come into the office with a significant amount of political capital, as well as a strong mandate, but he needs to move quickly and efficiently. Otherwise, he risks unforeseen events derailing his entire agenda.

There also looks to be a major shake up in New Jersey’s General Assembly. Vincent Prieto, the current Speaker of the House, looks set to lose the 3rd most powerful position in the state in January. A challenge by Assemblyman Chris Coughlin looks likely to unseat him, which could potentially lead to infighting within the party. If that happens, Murphy’s agenda could run into a significant stumbling block.

The state’s government as a whole looks set to be Democratic all the way through. If everything goes as expected, Democrats will enter 2018 with a unified government and a strong mandate from the people. If they are on the ball, they will be able to accomplish a lot in a short period of time. New Jerseyans clearly want to leave Chris Christie behind, and that is the best way to do it.

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