Pandering for 2020

With the New Jersey budget debacle behind him our governor has some free time to commiserate with one of his constituencies that is also facing some hard times despite his best efforts.

Here are Governor Phil Murphy’s remarks at the AFSCME Convention including attacks on Christie, Trump, Oklahoma, the Koch Brothers, and the DeVos family. In reading this (if you so choose) keep in mind that this is the governor of the state with the highest taxes in the nation making it virtually impossible for ‘working’ people to live here.

I had the great pleasure of last speaking to an AFSCME audience at a leadership conference roughly ten months ago. At that time, I was engaged in a tough campaign for governor.

I asked you to join me to create a new New Jersey that could be a model for our nation … a state based on the premise that economic progress cannot be possible without social progress, and that social progress cannot be possible without economic progress … a state that honors and respects the rights of labor to organize and represent workers … a state that recognizes that we don’t do well unless everyone does well … and a state that grows stronger by treating residents with fairness.

Today, I get to stand here as Governor of New Jersey.

In no small part because of you, we scored a tremendous victory, and we are well on our way to recreating New Jersey into a state in which these four core values are becoming our lifeblood. We are once again becoming a state in which solutions to our problems rise from the bottom up, instead of being pushed from the top down.

So, let me begin by simply saying, “thank you.” None of what we have achieved already, and that which we hope to achieve in the coming months and years, would be possible without your support.

I’ll touch on some of these accomplishments shortly, but I first want to note the change that we brought into office the moment I completed my oath and took my hand off the Bible – the same Bible upon which President John F. Kennedy, a personal hero of mine and a hero to the labor movement, swore his oath as president in 1961.

And, that change was this – the restoration of simple respect. Eight years of Chris Christie’s attacks on labor, particularly public organized labor, came to an abrupt end. Out went the name-calling. Out went the vilification and blame for seemingly everything going wrong in our state.

In New Jersey, instead of a closed door, my door is open. Instead of being told to “sit down and shut up,” labor now finds a seat at the table. We may not – and will not, I guarantee – always agree. But I will not treat you with disrespect. We will treat each other with dignity, and as adults.

As proof of this new relationship, it is my pleasure to announce that the state of New Jersey has reached a deal for a new contract with its AFSCME-affiliated workers – workers who haven’t had a contract since 2015. This contract will provide fair wages, honor past increments that the prior administration refused to pay, and protect health care, among other benefits. We know that when we work together, we not only ensure progress for our state, but for our workforce.

I don’t think I have to remind anyone here that this not something you are seeing from Washington. The rights of working men and women, and the hopes and dreams of working families, are under seemingly endless attack and vilification by President Trump and pliant Congressional leaders.

Whether it be a tax law that overwhelmingly favors the wealthy few and the biggest corporations, or attempts to undermine and strip away the rights to affordable health care, or immigration policies that are erasing our proud heritage as a nation of immigrants, or stacking the Supreme Court with ideologues, no day, it seems, comes and goes without some new threat to our values.

I have long posited that, in this current atmosphere, governors and states will have never mattered more.

Long the laboratories of democracy, states are now finding ourselves the front line of defense for our democracy.

And, at the front of this charge, I am so proud to say, is the great State of New Jersey.

Through executive action, through legislation, and through legal action, New Jersey is sending a clear message that we will not follow the President down the rabbit hole in a race to the bottom.

We will honor our diversity and wear it as a badge of honor. We will promote the dreams of the middle class and those who aspire to be in the middle class, just as I did as a child growing up in a working-poor family a few miles from here.

And, we will stand tall for the rights of labor to organize and represent workers.

In so much that AFSCME is working for, New Jersey is also working toward the same goal. So, I come here to ask for your renewed partnership. And, when we’re successful, you will be able to point to New Jersey when others say “we can’t,” to show them how “we did.”

This starts with the most vital and pressing issue before you – protecting the sacred right of workers to organize. I watched, as you did, several weeks ago, as the United States Supreme Court did its best to undermine the rights of unions, especially in the public sector. Sadly, we all knew where this case was headed given the rightward tilt of the Court under President Trump.

But, in New Jersey, we were ready for the Janus decision. I am so proud that we took anticipatory action and that I signed our Workplace Democracy Enhancement Act. Now, the rights of workers to organize and form a union, and for unions to communicate with their members, are protected in New Jersey even as they are being weakened in other states.

So long as I am governor – and, I hope, for years after I leave this office – New Jersey will continue to stand in support of workers’ rights, and the rights of unions to act on their behalf.

And, so long as I am governor, we will also push back against the misleading campaigns funded by the Koch Brothers and the DeVos family designed to weaken the rights of collective bargaining and dismantle public-sector unions.

Let’s not be mistaken. Their efforts are not about “employee choice.” It is just right-to-work union busting retooled for the social media age. My state is not Wisconsin. We’re not Oklahoma. We’re New Jersey – and the trend of ripping the heart out of collective bargaining will come to a full stop at our state line.

I am reminded of something then-Senator John Kennedy said in a Labor Day message in 1960, and nearly 60 years later these words ring just as true, and I quote, “Those who would destroy or further limit the rights of organized labor – those who would cripple collective bargaining or prevent organization of the unorganized – do a disservice to the cause of democracy.”

Of course, the best way for us to stand up against these misguided attacks is to strengthen our democracy. We must ensure that we have elected officials who not only recognize the importance of unions, but understand fully the good that unions have done not just for working people, but for all people.

Yes, elections have consequences, as we are seeing now.

While other states are disappointingly trying to fall over each other in creating new impediments to voting, in New Jersey, our goal is to break down these remaining barriers. A few months ago, I made New Jersey the 12th state to enact automatic voter registration to expand and protect the voting rights of their citizens.

And, we further made New Jersey just the fourth state to allow for automatic registration when residents deal with state agencies other than the motor vehicles department.

AFSCME has been a leader in the labor movement in protecting the rights of all Americans to vote, and I am so honored to share in this core value.

Together, we will stand in stark contrast to those whose interests lay in restricting voting rights and suppressing voters’ voices. We will show that an engaged and expanded electorate will do more to promote our values and safeguard our democracy than the efforts of our opponents to summarily disenfranchise American citizens under the guise of “election integrity.”

We know that when more people vote, the progressive values we share win. The values of health care security, tax fairness, and support for our immigrant neighbors, among many others.

And, once again, in each of these key issues, issues which are also important to AFSCME, New Jersey is showing a way forward.

As President Trump and his Congressional and state Republican enablers seek to undermine and gut the Affordable Care Act, in New Jersey, we’re walking in the opposite direction. Yes, health care is a right, and access to affordable health care should not ever be in question.

In one of my first executive orders, I directed all state departments and agencies to coordinate their efforts to ensure that every eligible New Jerseyan knows of the plans available to them under the ACA. I was proud to sign this order in Newark, at the site of an ACA enrollment center run by one of our state’s leading non-profit organizations. Now, they have a real partner in the state of New Jersey.

And, just last month, I signed a new law that will establish a reinsurance fund and reinstate the individual health care mandate in New Jersey starting on January 1, 2019 in an effort to reduce premiums. This will ensure that as the federal requirement is eliminated, New Jersey will continue to work to the ACA’s initial goal of a stable and healthy health care marketplace.

The elimination of the individual mandate, of course, was just one of the provisions buried in the Trump tax law, a law that has unfairness written all over it.

More than 80 percent of the law’s benefits will flow to the wealthiest one percent. Corporations got massive tax cuts, which we now know many aren’t using to invest in their workers, but to initiate stock buy-backs geared to benefit their shareholders.

In New Jersey, we believe something different. We believe that the middle class, and those striving to get a foothold in the middle class, deserve tax fairness. In the budget I recently signed, we put that principle in writing through the implementation of a millionaire’s tax. We also closed a costly loophole that let huge corporations park their New Jersey profits in other states to evade paying their fair share.

Through these efforts, we’re going to be making historic investments in public education, in fixing our ailing mass transit system, in core state programs that benefit a broad array of our residents, in shoring up our long-underfunded public employee pension system, and in tax relief for countless New Jersey households.

Moreover, we’re also bringing to a close the long-standing budget practices that have eroded our trustworthiness. We know we cannot invest in a better future if we are constantly trying to figure out how we just get through the next day. The commitments we made for properly and fully funding our schools, our key programs, and your pensions, are commitments we are going to keep.

So, too, is our commitment to keep New Jersey a state that welcomes everyone who comes seeking a new and better life for themselves and their families. We know exactly what President Trump means when he disparages immigrants for “changing the culture” of the places they seek to call home, and we reject his premise entirely.

In New Jersey, arguably the nation’s most diverse state, we welcome new cultures and proudly add them to the vibrant tapestry that is our state.

As governor, I proudly signed a new law granting in-state tuition-assistance to our Dreamers – students that have grown up in New Jersey, attended New Jersey schools, and are every bit as American as my four kids.

Our budget provides much-needed funding to provide legal support for immigrants fighting deportation.

And, I stand proudly by Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, himself the child of immigrants, in his legal challenges to the Trump Administration’s wrong-headed policies on immigration, including its inhumane and heart-wrenching treatment of immigrant children.

I am proud to add my voice to that of AFSCME in calling for commonsense reforms to our immigration system, including a clear pathway to citizenship.

There is a reason the Statue of Liberty, a short boat ride from the New Jersey side of the Hudson River, faces out to sea, welcoming those who look to America for a new life. Lady Liberty has never turned her back on our immigrant communities, not once in 132 years. We mustn’t, either – we must have their backs

On all these issues and more, I am so proud that we stand upon common ground, guided by shared core principles of fairness and justice.

These are the principles upon which AFSCME was founded 86 years ago. They are the principles for which Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, gave his life when he traveled to Memphis to stand alongside striking AFSCME sanitation workers. I was especially proud to have AFSCME standing with me in Trenton as we commemorated the 50th anniversary of his death.

And, they are the principles that I am honored to stand for today back home in New Jersey.

They are the reason I signed into law the nation’s toughest equal pay law, and signed another law that made us just the 10th state to offer every worker the peace of mind of guaranteed paid sick leave.

They are the reason why I continue to fight for a livable minimum wage of $15 an hour.

They are the reason why I will continue to fight for tax fairness.

And, they are the reason why I will always respect the rights of labor to organize, to advocate, and to help us move our state forward.

The dark days for union labor in New Jersey are over. The dawn has arrived. Together, let’s grab hold of the promise of this new day and ensure a brighter future for every New Jerseyan, and every American.

Thank you, all, so very much for having me.

11 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by NJ2AZ on July 19, 2018 at 4:30 pm

    I’ll say it again: The only thing keeping NJ from the top of the list of “states most likely to collapse” is the fact that Illinois exists.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Anonymous on July 19, 2018 at 6:33 pm

    John, as part of the new budget there was a tax implemented on Airbnb rentals in NJ but I thought that I read NJ weekly beach rentals were excluded. Does the tax include all and any online vacation rentals from any online site? Would you clarify the tax regarding this issue…thanks

    Reply

    • According to a Sobel & Co email the state will now apply a higher tax, including sales tax and local hotel surcharges, for Airbnb and other short term stay facilities. How they will do it is probably in some law they haven’t passed yet. I am still waiting for the wording on the mega-millionaire’s tax do 3B of my tax series and then Part 4 is on the sales tax.

      Reply

  3. Posted by Tough Love on July 19, 2018 at 9:34 pm

    Wow it’s hard to reads 1,000’s of words off Union ass-kissing. But what most caught my attention is where Gov. Murphy stated…………..

    ” ……………..and a state that grows stronger by treating residents with fairness.”

    No Gov. Murphy, you treat PUBLIC SECTOR WORKERS like royalty, and the other 85% of NJ “residents” who work in the Private Sector with anything BUT “fairness”.

    Reply

  4. Posted by Tough Love on July 20, 2018 at 8:56 am

    Article … Why Your Pension is Doomed (Wall Street Journal):

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-your-pension-is-doomed-1532042985

    First paragraph:

    “Pension costs are soaring across the country, and government unions blame politicians for “under-funding” benefits. Lo, if only taxes were higher, state budgets would be peachy. The real problem, as a new study shows, is that politicians have promised over-generous benefits.”

    ——————————————————–

    Sound familiar ?

    Reply

    • Posted by Stanley on July 23, 2018 at 4:25 pm

      TL, It appears that IL will continue on its present course until it completely ruins most of its citizens. Do you think that that trend will continue in other hard pressed states such as NJ, CT, CA, KY? The Wirepoints article included NV pensions as being excessive and I looked at Laxalt’s web site (R candidate for Gov) and I don’t see anything that brings up excessive pensions as an issue. I’m thinking that when checks start bouncing there will be motivation for reform and not until then. What do you think?

      Do you think that home ownership is a wise position at this time?

      Reply

      • Posted by Tough Love on July 23, 2018 at 8:52 pm

        I am familiar with NJ’s situation (because I live there) but not the other States (in any detail). Virtually all NJ STATE Plans are a basket case with PROPERLY CALCULATED* funding ratios less than 1/3 of assets they should NOW have in-hand. The LOCAL Plans (Primarily PFRS) are better funded but still with a funding ratio less than 50% with PROPERLY CALCULATED funding ratios. Operation of the Local PFRS was recently turned over to a Union-controlled Board, but with minimal power to cause expected financial concerns for Taxpayers. There is also the LOCAL PERS. Local Town Teaches are in a STATE Plans ………. thank goodness because they are a financial basket-case.

        YES, I have concerns:

        The HUGE State Teachers Plan is all-but-guaranteed to run Plan assets to ZERO within 10 years (likely sooner). My concern is that the STATE may try (and succeed) in “FORCING” the “STATE” IOU onto the LOCALITIES. That would be a nightmare for Local Property Taxes which are already near the highest in the nation. We could wind up with huge annual property tax increases ala some cities in Ill. Trying to pay for it with State sales or income tax increases is a non-starter with a Legislature VERY concerned/focused on getting re-elected, so one-off revenue-raising items like selling the TPK or GPS or putting tolls on major highways is a possibility (but certainly NOT “sufficient”) Annoying, but I guess I would have to live with that.

        PFRS will likely hobble along with uncomfortable ** annual contribution increases. Another “risk” is the new PRFS Board getting the support of a non-Union Board member in which case they would have the necessary votes to increase benefit levels or lower employee pension contributions.

        Who know what it takes to “motivate” a politician ?

        As for owning a home in NJ. I’m not ready to move out (family obligations), but I wouldn’t advise friends/family from out of NJ to move here w/o careful consideration of possible large future tax increases.

        * by PROPERLY CALCULATED funding ratios I mean using the assumptions & methodology commonly used in the valuation of Single-employer Private Sector Plans.

        Reply

  5. “Keep in mind that this is the governor of the state with the highest taxes in the nation.”

    As a percent of its residents’ income, New York says otherwise, and it isn’t close.

    Reply

    • Posted by Stanley on July 23, 2018 at 4:16 pm

      Mr. Littlefield, I’m a little curious about your chart. Does it include all of state and local taxes including licensing fees, real estate taxes, state and local income taxes, sales taxes, business taxes and so on? You are showing Taxachusetts as having relatively moderate taxes and that surprises me. If you charted AZ and/or NV, where would you put them? %5, 6%? What differences in income and cost of living are there that would explain the high taxes of the Northeast? How does IL fit into your chart?

      Reply

    • Posted by Stephen Douglas on July 25, 2018 at 11:48 pm

      It’s not an exact science, and, incredibly, there are several states apparently fighting for the title of highest taxes.

      https://files.taxfoundation.org/20180411102900/Facts-Figures-2018-How-Does-Your-State-Compare.pdf

      Reply

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