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Gov. Phil Murphy delivers his second inaugural address on January 18, 2022. (Photo: Joey Fox for the New Jersey Globe).

Murphy extols New Jersey Dream as second term begins

By Joey Fox, January 18 2022 12:51 pm

Before a vaccinated-and-tested crowd at the Trenton War Memorial, Gov. Phil Murphy was sworn in today for a second term as the governor of New Jersey, becoming the first Democrat to do so since former Gov. Brendan Byrne in 1977. Lieutenant Gov. Sheila Oliver was also sworn in to her second term as Murphy’s second-in-command.

Murphy, first elected by a large margin in 2017, won a tight re-election contest last year against Jack Ciattarelli, a former assemblyman who unexpectedly came within about three points of unseating the governor. But Murphy’s speech today betrayed little of the politics that led him to this point, instead focusing on his own pursuit of the American – and New Jerseyan – Dream.

“My brother, my two sisters, and I were raised, as many have heard me say, ‘middle class on a good day.’ In reality, we were working poor,” Murphy said. “Through hard work, more than a little luck, and thanks to God, I did better than my parents. And so did each of my siblings. We have lived the American Dream.”

As governor, Murphy said, he has fought to make such possibilities open to every family in the state, and he promised he’ll continue to work towards that mission in his second term.

“Our goal for these next four years is to make sure that the American Dream – an American Dream with Jersey flavor and with Jersey attitude – is alive and well,” he said.

Not unexpectedly, today’s inauguration speech contained relatively few specific policy priorities, many of which were previously mentioned at Murphy’s State of the State address last week. But Murphy did pledge to work towards solutions on gun violence and voting rights, appoint a number of new justices to the New Jersey Supreme Court, and fight to lower property taxes, the last of which was a major issue in the 2021 campaign.

“We’re going to keep chopping away at property taxes,” Murphy said. “Each of our administration’s first four years have ranked among four of the lowest year-over-year increases in property taxes on record. But I’m not going to be satisfied with just slowing property tax growth. I want to get us to a place where we can begin to see them go down.”

The governor also made sure to highlight the grim toll Covid has taken on the state, with more than 26,000 deaths in total and the staggering Omicron variant wave only now beginning to recede. 

“As we continue to work to disperse the dark clouds of Covid that hang over our state, we honor the tremendous sacrifices so many have made in their daily lives to help us return to normal,” Murphy said. “But we honor, especially, those who will not be with us to see the blue skies we know await us.”

Last week, Murphy announced that he was declaring another public health emergency after the legislature let his emergency powers expire, and the fight over Covid restrictions like masking and vaccine mandates may be the first major hurdle of the governor’s second term.

Also facing Murphy is a fresh-faced legislature – with a new Senate President in Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden) and new minority leaders in both chambers – a prolonged vacancy on the state Supreme Court, and a number of other issues big and small.

In her own inaugural speech, Oliver, the first Black woman ever elected statewide, focused on not leaving any community in the state behind. 

“Now more than ever, the people of New Jersey want us to not just hear them, but listen to them, and more importantly deliver for them,” she said. “We’ve proven that nothing has to fall by the wayside.”

Murphy ended his address, and began his second term as governor, with one final promise that under his leadership New Jersey will be a safe haven for the American Dream. 

“Let’s make New Jersey the proof that the ongoing American Experiment is not about to come to an end,” he said. “After all, to be an American is a privilege – to be a New Jerseyan is an honor.”

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