How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Mission Possible: How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Potential pitfalls for Murphy

Governor Phil Murphy has a very tough road ahead with lots of potholes and many craters in his way as he attempts to address growing income disparity, education disparities between urban and suburban districts, public employee pension shortfall, crumbling transportation infrastructure, the pervasive opioid epidemic crisis and our overreliance on property taxes as a means of financing government services.

The enormous challenges that Governor Murphy faces have been made far more difficult because of President Trump's anti-blue state tax proposal that makes SALT (state and local taxes) no longer deductible above $10,000 a year. It is a lot harder to argue for an increase in the millionaire's tax to generate more revenue when this group will be hit with a dramatic increase in their federal taxes due the SALT cap.

To be successful, Governor Murphy will need to thread the needle and maintain his progressive base without becoming so enmeshed in identity politics that he loses support among large swatches of the middle-of-the road Democrats and independents who gravitated to Chris Christie and enabled him to win two terms as governor. Murphy will need to heed the words of noted pollster Pat Caddell, who recently said that the Democratic Party is "hollowed out" and "unable to reach out beyond identity politics" as they "keep falling back on the same mantras." Identity politics can only take you so far before it becomes divisive. At some point if you bend over backward to placate one group, you lose another group who feels that you are losing sight of the general good. Early on, progressives are pleased that Governor Murphy has fulfilled his campaign promise to have an inclusive cabinet that includes our state's first female-majority cabinet and its first Muslim-American and Sikh-American cabinet officials. Progressives appreciate that he signed an executive order espousing gender wage equality for all, signed legislation setting aside $7.5 million for family planning and women's health, expressed his continued support for passage of the $15 minimum wage, favors the legalization of recreational marijuana and the passage of stricter gun laws. While endearing him to progressives, these actions will do nothing to address the key issue by which his term of office will be judged.

All New Jersey governors need to figure out early on how they are going to deal with the thousand-pound gorilla in the room - the omnipotent New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) with it's 200,000+ members, tremendous fundraising capability and enormous pool of volunteers. In the case of Governor Murphy, he was their candidate. He is not going to paint them as the personification of evil like Chris Christie. Likewise, he should avoid showing them the kind of unfettered fealty that Jon Corzine did.

Governor Murphy's best bet is to be extremely forthright and make it clear that while NJEA will have significant input in the direction of the state's education policy agenda, they will not dictate it or have veto power over new initiatives or the Commission of Education's appointees. This is especially important in light of what occurred in the case of Paula White, where a highly accomplished qualified woman's appointment as an Assistant Commissioner of the Department of Education was rescinded by the governor. There has been speculation in some quarters that that NJEA's opposition to her views on charter school was the reason her appointment was abruptly rescinded.

New Jersey needs a governor with a strong backbone, not blind allegiance to NJEA, a powerful union that was willing to support a climate-change denier and a supporter of President Trump's immigration agenda in order to defeat a legislative candidate whom they didn't trust and who pushed them too hard to trim their members' platinum fringe benefit package. To date, Governor Murphy has snatched up a lot of low-hanging progressive-friendly fruit. Now the job gets much more difficult. To be true to its progressive values, the Murphy administration will need to balance the budget by balancing the burden. Consistent with this, his proposed budget must include asking the state's wealthiest to pay morein spite of the SALT cap.

The proposed budget also includes a $3.2 billion payment to meet our state's pension obligation. The administration should make it clear to NJEA and other public employee unions that they also need to share the burden by agreeing to give back some of their "platinum" health care benefits and to cap at $15,000 the accrued unused sick day benefits that all public employees receive at their retirement (currently this cap only applies to employees hired after 2010). These savings should be earmarked for additional pension payments. Fiscally, something is amiss in New Jersey. We rise far too much money through property taxes, an inequitable means of financing government services. With this in mind, Governor Murphy should come out early and forcefully in favor of a property tax convention that would look systematically at developing a more equitable mix of taxes (among income, sales, corporate, death, and gas taxes etc.) and at areas in which we are spending too much when compared with other high-service states. The key to a successful convention would be a fair and objective publicly-financed delegate selection process, not one controlled by money, political parties or special interests.