Murphy promises STEM growth, Guadagno looks to tax breaks
By MICHAEL CATALINI
Oct. 14, 2017
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Democrat Phil Murphy and Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno want voters to put them in charge of the state's economy and are charting different courses toward what they promise will be growth.
Murphy is promising to spur the creation of science and technology jobs, wants to implement a public bank, hike the minimum wage and gain credit-agency trust by "fully funding" the public pension.
Guadagno has homed in on property tax reduction, but is also saying she will follow through with Chris Christie's $5 billion in promised tax credits to lure Amazon's new headquarters to New Jersey.
A closer look at one of the top issues in the race to succeed Christie, a Republican, who is term-limited.
Creating new jobs and building the economy are as much a part of this year's campaign for governor as glossy posters and hand-shaking along a rope line.
It's a perennial issue, and voters tell pollsters it's on the top of their minds in 2017 as well.
New Jersey's economy has seen struggled under the Christie administration — in part stemming from the Great Recession — but it has also seen growth.
Christie and Guadagno came into office with an unemployment rate just shy of 10 percent and with job losses ticking up monthly. The jobless rate has plummeted to 4.5 percent this August, so much so that Christie had taken to touring the state again to tout the falling rate. Those tours have ebbed in recent months as the rate climbed from 4.2 percent back up to 4.5 percent.
The state's recovery has also lagged, adding on average about 45,000 jobs annually from 2010-2016, according to a Rutgers study. The study found that to keep pace with the rest of the country's recovery, the state should average about 72,000 jobs per year.
New Jersey has also seen 11 credit downgrades under Christie's two-terms.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
Murphy rhetoric on jobs, putting the rebuilding of what he calls the STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — economy is front and center. A staple line in his stump speech is that New Jersey was "Silicon Valley before there was Silicon Valley." He says he wants to return the state to that status.
He's called for strengthening vocational and community college education as a way to attract those jobs. A key part of his platform is a $15 minimum wage, which he said in Tuesday's debate for the first time that he would favor phasing it in. He's also called for more investment in infrastructure and transportation projects.
He has also called for the creation of a public bank, which he says would stop the flow interest to banks that hold the state's cash and instead return a dividend to taxpayers. He says the plan is modeled after North Dakota's public bank, the only other example in the nation.
Murphy has also promised more jobs from the expansion of environmentally friendly sectors, like wind and solar.
Murphy also indicates he'd rebuild credit agencies' trust in the state by fully funding the pension.
Guadagno, who was charged with cutting regulations and luring businesses to the states, has taken credit for the state's recovery, touting the addition of nearly 300,000 private sector jobs.
But her campaign is almost singularly focused on reducing property taxes, which are the country's highest. She is calling for the state to attract more military jobs, promote tourism and develop a transportation plan.
Both candidates favor getting Amazon's new headquarters and its 50,000 new jobs to the state. Guadagno backs Christie-proposed tax credits of $5 billion. Murphy hasn't said if he supports them specifically.
WHAT THEY'RE NOT SAYING
Murphy has struggled to specify how he would implement his so-called "innovation economy" ideas. For example, he hasn't called for a specific bill or regulatory change that could lead to the kind of growth he's suggesting.
Murphy's plan to fully fund the pension leaves out that the level actuaries recommend — roughly $ 5 billion annually — would mean nearly doubling the current fiscal year payment. Lawmakers and Christie had planned to ramp up funding over time.
Guadagno has highlighted differences with Christie, who is unpopular in New Jersey: rejecting his renovation of the statehouse, calling for more collegial talks with public unions and poking fun at his penchant for using the state police chopper to travel. She railed against a 23-cent gas tax increase that the governor enacted along with other cuts.
But she hasn't indicated what her administration would do differently from the governor on the economy.
Contact Catalini at https://www.twitter.com/mikecatalini
This is the third in an occasional series looking at issues ahead of the Nov. 7 election.
For more on the New Jersey governor's race, go to https://apnews.com/tag/NewJerseyGovernor'sRace