Murphy at the Marriott: the Scene in the Wardman

Jeff Brindle, Executive Director of the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission, says that even if the so-called Dark Money Disclosure bill recently passed by the NJ legislature is not perfect, the public deserves to have this legislation become law so that there can be greater openness to electoral and governmental processes.

WASHINGTON – There were hundreds of people seated before him and a dizzying number of muckety-mucks assembled with him on the dais when Gov. Phil Murphy rose to speak at Thursday night’s annual state Chamber of Commerce dinner.

This was the end – or not really the end – of a day that began with a train trip from the Garden State to D.C.  Upon arrival, there was a cocktail party featuring New Jersey craft beers, the dinner, and afterwards there would be more time for networking – that rather non-descript corporate term – at various watering holes in and near the Marriott Wardman Hotel.

Murphy, not surprisingly, talked about how well the state is doing. These judgments are curious things. A survey publicized earlier in the week suggested that the number of people in New Jersey dissatisfied with the state’s quality of life is growing.

These addresses are never the time for substantive policy announcements. But there is an announcement of substance set for next week. That would be the governor’s budget address.
Last year, the Murphy budget caused a major rift with members of his own party before a compromise was reached.

The only hint the governor gave of the budget to come was that he would talk about “significant savings” and a way to lessen the “weight on property taxpayers.”

That would be most welcome, considering that the governor said little about property taxes during his state of the state address in January.

There is nothing easy about this.

The easy part is blasting federal tax reform for capping the deduction for state and local taxes at $10,000. Murphy did that Thursday night, as politicians from both parties have done for the last year.
It’s a bit harder to get to the root of the problem, that being asking why property taxes are so high in the first place.

The governor named two so-called consolidation czars – yes, they’re really called that – last year to explore merging towns or at least combining services. What they have done so far remains a mystery. We may learn more next week.

Through the many years of the property tax debate in New Jersey, one thing is constant.

Truly cutting taxes would mean reducing the number of New Jersey municipalities and school districts. I know, there are home rule advocates who may like the idea of a police chief in a small town with little crime making $150,000 a year, but really now, is that the best way to govern? Ditto for a small school district which, of course, has its own superintendent and business administrator.

Another way to reduce property taxes would be to restructure the entire system and no longer use property taxes to fund the public school system. But don’t hold your breath on that one.

When the governor sat down, Sen. Bob Menendez spoke.

The main part of the senator’s address was a commendable call on business leaders in the room to support immigration for two reasons – it’s good for business and also morally right.

But like any Hudson County politico, Menendez never misses a change to make some political points.
Noting that Cory Booker was absent, Menendez said it’s gratifying to see a New Jersey man running for president by trying to lift people up as opposed to “putting people down.” Gee, wonder who he was referring to?

The senior senator also publicly thanked those in the room who stood by him in 2018. That was when he won re-election on the heels of a federal indictment that ended in a hung jury. Charges were then dismissed.

How about those who did not stand by him?

Menendez said he had a message for them, but he wouldn’t say it because the “cardinal” was in the room. Joseph Cardinal Tobin of Newark was indeed in the room.

The joke, however, fell flat.

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