Murphy talks property taxes, making N.J. more affordable in first big speech since re-election

Published: Nov. 18, 2021

Gov. Phil Murphy on Thursday touted what he considers his administration’s big accomplishments on taxes and the economy and vowed to work with local leaders to make New Jersey more affordable in his first major address after a bruising re-election victory.

Speaking to a large audience of municipal officials and elected leaders at the League of Municipalities annual convention in Atlantic City, the Democratic governor argued he kept property taxes at bay and laid the groundwork for a stronger economy during his first four years.

“Make no doubt, this state is moving forward. I ... am committed to keeping it pointed in this direction. And I look to having you all there by my side,” Murphy said in his speech.

The speech touched on topics that were front and center in his recent re-election that proved closer than political observers and members of Murphy’s own team expected against Republican Jack Ciattarelli.

Ciattarelli spent millions in ads to slam Murphy on property taxes — an issue public polling showed people cared the most about as Election Day neared, eclipsing COVID-19 as voters’ number one concern. Overall, polling showed voters trusted Ciattarelli more with handling taxes, while Murphy had the edge on the pandemic.

Murphy won the race — which was called about 24 hours after the polls closed — by a little more than 3 points.

But he and his staffers have argued since the election that the groundwork they laid over his first term is what ultimately made him the better choice, and Murphy signaled in the speech he’ll continue to govern the same way.

“The investments we’ve made and the economic development policies we’ve pursued are primed to not just help communities smartly grow and redevelop, but they are critical to making our state more affordable,” he said. “This is where we have lived every day of the past nearly four years, and it’s where we are committed to living every day of the next four that the people of our state have given us.”

Among the accomplishments he listed in response to the pandemic was nearly $700 million in small business grants and loans and tens of billions of dollars of relief from the state’s Property Tax Relief Fund, which he said “means that over our first term, we’ve invested more in property tax relief than in any other term in state history.”

But he concede more work needs to be done.

“I’d like to have small (property tax) increases turn into significant decreases,” he said, citing how more state funding for schools could lower property taxes since more than half of residents’ property taxes go to pay for schools.

“Every dollar we provide to our school districts is a dollar that they don’t have to ask from property taxpayers,” he said. “Everything points back to making our state more affordable for middle-class families, and for everyone.”

The annual three-day event attracts thousands of municipal officials and elected leaders each year to Atlantic City. It was held virtually last year because of COVID-19.

Murphy thanked the local leaders for their help with the state’s response to the coronavirus and massive destruction brought by Hurricane Ida, saying how proud he was that his administration directed millions in federal funding to small businesses.

And he promised to listen to them in his second term.

“I know that you often are the first ones to hear concerns and complaints from residents. I hear them, too, as I travel across and up and down the state, but you are truly on that front line,” he said. “If there’s one thing you know about what I want our administration’s legacy to be, it’s that we didn’t believe in top-down, heavy-handed policymaking but rather in collaboration and innovation, in listening and then doing.”

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-11-19 03:39:05 -0800