Murphy speech sets priorities, lacks specifics

After four hours of networking and breeze shooting, what everyone on the Walk to Washington wants is an evening of political speeches. But, seriously, the speeches at this event are always watched closely, if not for content, necessarily, then for style.

In that respect, there was some anticipation ahead of the keynote from new Gov. Phil Murphy. The governor had suggested earlier in the week that some clues to his budget address would be found in his remarks, but the speech hit on familiar themes without revealing much about how he’ll accomplish his goals.

Still in the honeymoon phase, Murphy has not yet been forced to be specific about much, and his speech before the members of the Chamber sounded very much like a stump speech he could have made months ago.

“Let there be no doubt, New Jersey has a laundry list of challenges, most of which have been festering for decades,” Murphy said. “I cannot change the status quo overnight, no governor can, but our administration is committed to taking on the entrenched interests that don’t like and don’t want change.”

Without mentioning what those entrenched interests are, the governor said his focus will be on rebuilding the relationship between the administration and small business, a reference to the big tax breaks handed out to corporations by the previous administration. He talked about the need to rebuild the state’s infrastructure, improve access to higher education and create innovation zones where business incubators will nourish future tech leaders.

“So much of what we are doing, and will do, will be done through the lens of restoring New Jersey as a good value-for-money state, that it was when many of you started your businesses, or when many of us came here,” Murphy said.

In other words, instead of the state getting cheaper to live in, the governor wants to give you more bang for your buck, and that’s going to take investment, he said. To that end, large corporations and people of means, let’s call them millionaires, are going to have to pony up some. It’s not class warfare, said the governor, it’s economic fairness. At 26 minutes, the speech did not hold the audience rapt, but those who were looking for a serious, substantive speech to go with their dinner, got what they paid for, even if the specifics were more philosophical than actuarial.

“We can’t be content to just be the place where companies like Amazon want to come, we must also want to be the place where the next Amazon is born,” Murphy said. “And frankly, it’s a lot cheaper when they’re born here than when we have to convince them to come here.”

The governor’s speech wasn’t the best of the night, but it also wasn’t the worst. His appearance here, even having a beer at the bar after the speech, helped anyone who was still wondering, understand what he’s all about.