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The ghosts of past governors

What New Jersey governors said in their first State of the State address

By David Wildstein, January 15 2019 9:55 am

Gov. Phil Murphy will deliver his first State of the State address today, perhaps mindful that New Jersey – one of the bluest states in the nation – has not re-elected a Democratic governor since 1977.

Gov. Brendan Byrne called for controlled state spending and the creation of new jobs and economic development programs during his first State of the State address in January 1975.

He also took on leaders of the Democratic-controlled State Senate, calling for an end to senatorial courtesy.

“The need to increase public confidence in government procedures should compel the abolition at last of senatorial courtesy,” Byrne said.

Byrne also pushed for legislation that would guarantee equal access to all public beaches,

Gov. Tom Kean used his first State of the State in January 1983 to seek approval of many initiatives the Legislature had refused to enact during his first year in office.

Kean sought programs that would create “jobs for our people, government under control, and cities and towns full of their own vitality.”

“When future generations judge our actions, they will care little about our political victories, no matter how important they may seem to us at the time,” said Kean.

Gov. Jim Florio promised that New Jerseyans would see the benefits of his 1990 tax increases in his first State of the State address in January 1991.

“1990 was about investing, and 1991 is about dividends,” Florio said.

Democrats lost 10 Senate seats and 21 Assembly seats that fall.

Gov. Christine Todd Whitman’s used her first State of the State in January 1995 to say that her first-year tax cuts and deregulation policies paved the way for New Jersey’s “comeback year.”

“Nobody’s laughing at New Jersey anymore,” Whitman said.

Whitman called for continued tax cutting, reduced state spending, and eliminating bureaucratic red tape.

Gov. James E. McGreevey called for banning campaign contributions from individuals and businesses who do business with the state in his first State of the State address in January 2003.

McGreevey said he wanted to enact sweeping reforms that would curtail corruption and restore New Jerseyans’ trust in government.

“Under the leadership of Attorney General Samson, we have started to aggressively deal with the scourge of public corruption that has tainted too many public officials in New Jersey,” McGreevey said.

He also sought to allow towns to declare a one-year moratorium on building, the preservation of open space, and reforms that would make it easier for New Jerseyans to obtain auto insurance.

Gov. Jon Corzine promised to nudge the Legislature to offer tax relief and adopt government ethics reforms when he delivered his first State of the State address in January 2007.

He proposed selling state assets to raise money, and floated the idea of a constitutional convention to adopt tax reform measures if the Legislature can’t do it themselves.

“Property taxes are the cork in the bottle that constrains New Jersey’s resources and attention, and holds back the public’s confidence in our future.”

Corzine said that tax reform was the key to improving education, offering universal health care, and preserving open space.

Gov. Chris Christie used his first State of the State in January 2011 to cite the achievements of his first year as governor.

“The last year may have seemed like a long and winding road, but together, we have actually changed direction,” Christie said.

He called for pension reforms, including limits on cost-of-living allowances, an increase to the retirement age, and higher employee contributions.

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