Memo to New Jersey's new Gov. Murphy | Editorial

NJ Governor Inauguration
Phil Murphy gives his address after being sworn in as governor of New Jersey during his inauguration, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018, in Trenton, N.J.

Dear Gov. Murphy,

Your inaugural address last week was well received because you promised a progressive agenda to a progressive state. Environmentalists, for example, skipped out of the Statehouse just happy to hear you utter the phrase “climate change” like you knew what it was. You’re starting off with a lot of good will at your back, but it can slip away if you forget the basics. So here are a few guidelines.

Be honest. You promised affordable taxes, health care, schools, housing, transportation and child care as well as clean air and water, good wages and guaranteed sick time and more. But you may not be able to do it all. When you’re stuck, tell residents — they might be able to help.

Listen. Sit at the counter in a diner by yourself. No entourage. No media. You’ll hear plenty and besides, who doesn’t need a piece of pie from time to time?

Pay the bills without any tricky stuff. You came from Goldman Sachs, so you should be able to see through schemes to refinance, repackage, stretch out payments, and otherwise make your old industry a fortune on state debt and other obligations, like pensions. Residents are paying for bad fiscal management with a low credit rating, neglected infrastructure and diminished services. Get real with the state’s needs and resources. Know that it’s going to hurt. (For more information on dealing with the pain, go back to Be honest. )

Nurture the young by fighting until you drop to secure fair funding for the public schools and colleges. New Jersey doesn’t have a future if it doesn’t have a highly educated populace.

Keep your pledge to care for the vulnerable. That includes the poor, the abused, the drug-addicted, the undocumented and more.

Protect the state’s natural resources. The state’s 127 miles of Atlantic coast, its placid back bays, and forests from the Highlands to the Pinelands are under attack from a federal government that favors polluters over preservers.

Raise the minimum wage. Anyone opposed to raising the state’s minimum wage of $8.44 an hour should try living on it. Shut down the argument from some corners of the business community that a wage hike is going to cause layoffs. Executives who can’t figure out how to pay workers a living wage can’t possibly be giving you good advice. And, don’t wait for a study to tell you to cut back that piggish $1 billion a year in new tax subsidies your predecessor handed to businesses. When one group doesn’t pay its taxes, the rest of us – including the state’s loyal business community — pick up the slack.

Fix mass transit. Suffice it to say that a popular NJ Transit commuter Twitter handle starts with the letter “F.”

Governor, you came to office by clearing out other candidates who couldn’t compete with your wealth. You did not have your own political base. So you should create a base by fighting only for the interests of the people and not the power brokers.  You have a remarkable opportunity to be a true independent. Take it.