Murphy says NJ community colleges should be ‘tuition free’

With just 50 days to go before Election Day, Phil Murphy insists he’s keeping his foot on the gas, even as polls suggest his campaign is cruising ahead by double digits. On Monday, the Democrat held two events intended to show his support for tech innovation, entrepreneurship and job creation.

He was joined first at Tigerlabs, a job incubator in Princeton, by Bill Bradley for an endorsement. Bradley used to be the hi-tech guy when he ran for president almost two decades ago.

“How did Austin, Texas become a hub? Because of government policy. Because people got it together. How did Boston? Because of government policy, and so I look at this and I think this state could be dotted with Tigerlabs four years from now or more and I look at this in five years from now and six years from now and we could have the Murphy economy in New Jersey and people say it started here in Tigerlabs and Bradley came and put his arm around him,” Bradley said.

The former senator probably meant that in a good way, but these are tough times in New Jersey and the economic outlook is not that rosy, but Murphy says the future of the state’s economy is not dire. He says the state economy has limped along because of policy choices made by the governor.

“The challenging news is that we are at a little bit of an economic crisis,” noted Murphy. “The better news is that if choices got us into this, choices and the right leadership and the right priorities can get us out.”

It’s tough to see what a Bradley endorsement brings to a campaign with such a big lead, but Murphy’s camp has made a big show of running through the finish line despite a big lead. If independents or nostalgic Democrats were looking for another reason to vote for Murphy, maybe Bradley is it. At the second event, in Trenton, Murphy introduced Sen. Cory Booker — a Democrat very much of the moment, with possible presidential aspirations and as high a profile as any Democrat in the country.

Murphy unveiled a Workforce Development Platform, centering on policy ideas that have been part of the Murphy pitch for a while. They include promoting vocational technical education and apprenticeship programs creating more opportunities for women and minorities. It also includes a call for free community college tuition. The concept isn’t new. Murphy’s talked about it before – but the sticker price, mainly, free – is.

“I’m committing to making community college tuition-free for all New Jerseyans,” he announced.

The Democrat says it won’t happen overnight. He also put a price tag on the program – $400 million, although aides later said it was a little early to put a price tag on it – and it could be much less.

“America is going towards a low cost to no cost community college, and we are inching along towards doing the kinds of things we should be doing with community colleges,” added Booker. “We are inching along.”

Republican Kim Guadagno has already estimated Murphy’s promises will cost taxpayers $70 billion. She mocked Murphy saying he was taking everyone to Disney World on his private jet next week. But, voters don’t appear to be too concerned about that if you believe the latest poll numbers, which continue to favor Murphy as we head into the heart of the election season.