CHULAK: Murphy is clear choice for gubernatorial race

Opinions Column: The Hard Truth

Although the 2016 election is still fresh in many voter’s minds, New Jersey voters have receded back into their political hibernation and have failed to come out with the same excitement for the upcoming gubernatorial election. This year, New Jersey – along with Virginia — will be one of only two states holding a major election with all 120 seats in the New Jersey Legislature up for reelection in addition to the governorship. This in conjunction with the current political climate both in Washington D.C. and in Trenton has propelled New Jersey’s election into the national spotlight.

According to recent polls, the favorite is Democratic nominee Phil Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive who served as the finance chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and was the United States ambassador to Germany. He will be facing off against Republican nominee Kim Guadagno, the current lieutenant governor and former Monmouth County sheriff. While both candidates have their flaws, the choice is clear in this election: If New Jersey wants to move on from the disastrous eight-year reign of Gov. Chris Christie, new leadership needs to be brought in. Kim Guadagno has spent the past eight years in Christie’s shadow and has attempted to distance herself from his low approval ratings. She has promised to lower property taxes for New Jersey residents but has offered no concrete plans to offset a massive reduction in state revenue that would result in the reduction or elimination of essential state programs. To make matters worse, Guadagno has taken a hard-right turn and resorted to divisive campaign rhetoric by attacking Murphy’s character for his support of DREAMers and his intention to make New Jersey a sanctuary state. Guadagno has shown that she does not have the judgment nor the conviction to lead New Jersey, and her latest ploys show just how desperate her campaign really is.

In Murphy, we have a candidate with not only a clear vision for the future of New Jersey but also a deep understanding of the issues that have plagued the state for the past eight years. Murphy has made strong campaign promises that he has shown no intention of retracting. He has made the economy a focal point of his campaign and has promised to fully fund education and the pension system. He also plans on making significant investments to improve New Jersey’s antiquated public transportation system and crumbling infrastructure. As New Jersey lies between two of the largest markets in the country, we have failed to adequately improve our infrastructure to take advantage of valuable state resources. Aside from the frequent delays and technical difficulties that have plagued NJ Transit for what seems like forever, we have seen multiple train derailments that have put lives in danger. The next governor must address these issues and Murphy has shown he has every intention to do so. Additionally, Murphy plans to stimulate the economy by investing in STEM education and green technology. He plans to rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), an initiative among eastern states to cap and reduce carbon emissions. Since President Donald J. Trump indicated his intention to withdraw from the Paris climate accords, it is imperative that governors across the country solidify their commitment to a sustainable future.

The middle class has struggled to deal with high costs of living in New Jersey and we need a governor that is going to implement policies that will help working families across the state. Murphy has indicated that he intends to raise the minimum wage to a living wage of $15 an hour. This would significantly boost the economy by providing thousands of New Jerseyans with additional disposable income that will be used to support businesses across the state while also providing crucial relief to the middle class. Murphy also introduced a novel idea — only before implemented in North Dakota — to create a public bank that would offer low-interest loans to students, businesses and consumers across the state. The bank would theoretically divert money away from Wall Street and move it back into New Jersey. Critics of Murphy’s proposals claim that they are too grand and that there is no way that the state can pay for it without raising taxes, but despite his wealth and background, Murphy has committed to making the wealthy pay their fair share by enacting a millionaire’s tax and closing corporate tax loopholes. His proposal to legalize marijuana would also generate an estimated $300 million. Neither of these tax increases would negatively impact the middle class but would generate an estimated $1.3 billion in tax revenue that could fund vital programs.

Murphy has shown he is not afraid to be a vocal critic of policies coming out of Washington. Electing Phil Murphy would send a message that New Jersey is ready to reestablish its role as a leader among states. New Jersey needs a governor that will raise the minimum wage, fully fund education and fight for the middle class. We also need a governor that will advocate for criminal justice reform and promote equality for all. Some may be disappointed by the candidates in this race, but Murphy is the clear choice here. On Nov. 7, the nation’s eyes will be focused on the Garden State, and we cannot afford to sit this one out.

Daniel Chulak is a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior majoring in environmental and business economics with a minor in German. His column, "The Hard Truth," runs on alternate Thursdays.

*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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