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Gov. Phil Murphy. Photo by Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe

Little news from Murphy tele-town hall

Governor fields questions on marijuana, property tax relief

By Nikita Biryukov, April 22 2019 7:29 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy made little news during a tele-town hall Monday evening.

The Democratic State Committee-sponsored town hall lasted for roughly an hour and saw Murphy fielding questions on a variety of topics, ranging from marijuana legalization to property tax relief to student loan forgiveness.

“I continue to think, Rebecca, first of all it came very close. It looks like the votes were there in the Assembly, and we were within a couple of votes in the Senate,” Murphy said when asked why Democrats failed to pass their marijuana legalization package in March. “I don’t say this as a complete yes or no, but it’s a hard thing for folks to get to particularly, in a generation that I’m in or older. I’m in my low 60s, you don’t grow up thinking this is a natural step to take.”

By The New Jersey Globe’s count, the bill package had between 16 and 18 affirmative votes in the legislature’s upper chamber, well short of the 21 votes needed to advance the measures.

Murphy reiterated his promise to expand the state’s medical marijuana program via executive action should legislators fail to pass the marijuana bills in May.

Property tax relief, particularly property tax relief targeting the state’s elder residents, came up more than once during the town hall.

The second time Murphy was asked about the issue, a caller asked why New Jersey didn’t allow the state’s elderly residents, who no longer had school-age children, to not pay education-related property taxes. Georgia has such a program.

“Georgia is in a different planet than New Jersey… but we’re not Georgia, and I’m happy to say in most respects we never will be,” Murphy said. “I wish we were still a AAA bond rated state. I wish that we had huge surpluses and we hadn’t spent like drunken sailors and made crazy decisions with our pension plans, among other steps.

“I wish we didn’t play politics, particularly in the last administration, with our books and records in terms of how we thought about screaming for the bully pulpit and not doing the tough day-in and day-out stuff of restoring fiscal responsibility, and we can’t turn any of that around overnight, but we are working every single day to get back on our feet.”

The town hall’s telephone audience peaked at 8,740 callers.

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