GOP Lawmakers Say Murphy’s ‘Road Map’ to Reopening Falls Short

Republicans say the governor's plan for easing COVID-19 restrictions is unwisely leaving the owners of small businesses behind

For weeks now, Republicans around the state have been sounding the alarm with none-too-subtle jabs at Gov. Phil Murphy.

“Under Governor Murphy’s lack of leadership, small businesses are losing. This is what happens when you fail to plan. You plan to fail,” said Sen. Michael Testa at a press conference in Cape May.

Testa’s news event took place in an otherwise empty parking lot of the CoHo brewery and pub in Cape May Court House, which is open for curbside pickup only, across from the local Home Depot, which was doing brisk business.

“Yet the small retailers, the mom and pop shops that are the very life blood of our local economies, are prevented from opening their doors to sell the same exact items,” he said.

It’s been the administration’s most difficult needle to thread, how to allow small shops to reopen to customers while maintaining the goal of flattening the curve and defending against a spike in COVID-19 cases. Adding to the frustration brought on by the economic hardship is the lack of a clear timeline for a loosening of the restrictions.

Monmouth County Republicans say they’re not sure who the governor is listening to.

“I don’t think there’s anybody who’s ever had to make a payroll, who’s ever had to manage inventory in a warehouse, who’s ever had to pull down a security gate at the end of the night. I don’t think those people are in the discussions,” said Assemblyman Gerard Scharfenberger.

A statewide chorus

It’s the rallying cry of Republicans up north as well. Who’s involved in the decision making process and why haven’t lawmakers been brought in? Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi represents Bergen and Passaic counties.

“We get talking points during press conferences, but yet there is no plan other than a perception that one individual with a small group of people around him are selecting winners and losers in business moving forward,” Schepisi said.

Republican Leader Jon Bramnick Tuesday called for legislative hearings.

“Let’s call experts, infectious disease experts, epidemiologists, heads of hospitals, religious leaders and let’s vet the way we can open this state safely. But to have just one person, whether he be the governor or not, come on and say ‘well, I’m going to extend the emergency by 30 days.’ People want more answers than that,” he said.

“I want to open the state up as much as the next guy, trust me. One hundred-some people went into the hospital yesterday. The house is still on fire. Has it gotten better? Yeah, it’s clearly gotten better. But let’s be responsible, man. Let’s be responsible. Let’s do this together,” the governor said during Monday’s daily press briefing.

Bramnick may not get the hearings he wants, but even Democratic leadership is starting to wonder aloud what, when and where will this state’s economy be in a few months. In that regard no one, on either side, is expressing much optimism.

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