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NJ Gov. Murphy to give speech detailing 1st year in office

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) – New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is set Tuesday to deliver his first state of the state address, a year after he took over from Chris Christie.

The Democrat, a former Wall Street executive and Obama administration ambassador to Germany, campaigned as an unabashed liberal and over the past year steered the state in a different direction than his Republican predecessor.

The speech comes after Murphy achieved a number of his campaign promises, like enacting additional gun-control measures and paid sick leave, though big-ticket promises like recreational marijuana legalization and a $ 15 minimum wage remain stalled. Another promise to establish a public bank also remains grounded.

Where Christie clashed with public sector labor unions, Murphy agreed to a four-year $ 150 million contract for roughly 35,000 state workers. He’s rejoined a regional greenhouse gas initiative that Christie pulled out of. An audit of the state’s tax incentive programs that Christie championed critiqued the expiring programs for failing to adequately oversee $ 8 billion in awards on his predecessor’s watch.

Murphy has pledged to rehabilitate New Jersey Transit, which has suffered from poor management, bad internal morale and lack of resources according to reports. Despite the focus on the agency and reaching a December goal of equipping rail lines with an emergency braking system, riders continue to vocally complain about service and delays.

Murphy’s first budget also went into effect last year, running until June 30. It reflects his pledge to pay more into the public pension – a trend that started under Christie despite his sour relationship with public sector unions. He also increased education spending and boosted the state subsidy to NJ Transit.

To pay for it, he and the Democrat-led Legislature hiked income taxes on those making $ 5 million a year or more. Those earners will go from paying an 8.97 percent top rate to 10.75 percent.

Taxes on businesses making more than $ 1 million will see an average hike of 2 percent over four years. The hike is set to expire after the fourth year when the rate would drop back to 9 percent.

Drivers started paying 4.3 cents more per gallon at the pump thanks to a deal that predated Murphy’s administration. To fund road and bridge projects, the deal raised the gas tax by 23 cents but also cut other taxes, like sales and estate, on Christie’s insistence for “tax fairness.” A little-known part of the deal, though, was a required steady revenue stream to support a $ 2 billion a year trust fund for transportation work, up from $ 1.6 billion before.

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