The Republican response to Gov. Phil Murphy’s State of the State address was, as it always is, about taxes.
“The overreach of Trenton and the Democrats for the last 20 years has caused us to be the number one exit state in our country, the number one taxed state in our country,” Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) said in his rebuttal to what was essentially Murphy’s first big re-election speech. “This is why it’s so important we start the move away from raising taxes.”
In a livestreamed address earlier Tuesday, Murphy touted his administration’s accomplishments on a number of campaign promises, including, among others, a $15 minimum wage and a tax on the state’s millionaires.
More than anything else, the speech focused on the pandemic that has gripped the state and nation for nearly a year. The Republicans see a vulnerability in that.
“With respect to the administration and their inability to handle this crisis, the Department of Motor Vehicles has been a nightmare for drivers and owners of motor vehicles since this pandemic began,” Bramnick said. “Barely can people be able to register their car, get their new licenses or deal with motor vehicles.”
The Motor Vehicle Commission saw months of hours-long lines after it was allowed to reopen after being shuttered for months in the early stages of the pandemic.
The fiasco became a favorite target for some Republican lawmakers, Bramnick and State Sen. Tony Bucco (R-Boonton) among them.
Bramnick’s criticisms, bookended by condemnations of President Donald Trump and the violence in Washington he spurred last week, came at a less-fevered pitch than criticism the governor has faced from Republicans earlier in his term.
The minority leader, for one, wanted to make it clear that his attacks against Murphy, whom he considers a friend, were just politics.
“Our differences, at least between my caucus and the Democratic caucus and myself and the governor, are not personal. They’re philosophical,” Bramnick said. “I deeply disagree with Gov. Murphy’s approach to many of the areas that govern New Jersey, but he has been to my house. I have been to his house, and I feel confident that most New Jerseyans and most Americans are people of good will.”