Murphy tees up budget address in Washington D.C.

A few of the more cynical attendees on the annual Walk to Washington have referred to the Thursday night dinner as “the biggest dinner that nobody goes to.” And while that’s not entirely true, attendance at the event can fluctuate, especially depending on the keynote speaker. A Cory Booker, a fuller house. A Phil Murphy, not so much. Still, given the headliner slot, Murphy used it to reiterate his commitment to so-called investments in his budget — to be officially unveiled Tuesday. Murphy being Murphy, he used a sports metaphor to, as they say, tee it up.

“Without tipping, as they say, too many of my pitches, I’ll let you know the budget that I will unveil on Tuesday will continue these critical investments. We know that they’re vital to you and your businesses to ensuring a top-tier talent pool and allowing goods and services to flow across the state and to markets outside of New Jersey. But this budget will also be different. Perhaps more than any other in recent memory, it will put forward significant and sustainable savings. That’s good for our bottom line and even better for our taxpayers. It will continue our work to lessen the weight on our property taxpayers and build on last year’s progress, which saw the lowest annual increase in the statewide property tax on record. The budget I will propose in five days will include even bigger steps to move us back to the principals of good governance and sound fiscal practices that our residents demand, that the credit rating agencies want and which administrations and legislatures of both parties, by the way, had evaded for far too long. I will speak once again to my commitment to tax fairness for our middle class families and seniors. And I mention once again the countless middle class taxpayers who are wondering where their promised federal tax cut went. And yes, you are going to hear a renewed call for changing the way our corporate tax incentive programs work,” Murphy said.

As a budget address preview it was chock full of hints, but few details. And at a nearly hour-long off the record sit down with reporters after dinner, the governor gave less, not more on speculation that a new millionaire’s tax is on his agenda and demurred on explaining what significant and sustainable savings could mean.

“I am proudly pro-growth and progressive,” he said.

Now that he’s governor, Murphy doesn’t need to ride on the Chamber Train — he’s the conductor of the whole state, and the sparse attendance for his speech Thursday night did nothing to dampen anticipation for a critical address on Tuesday when the audience will be much larger.