Gov. Phil Murphy believes the concerns of New Jersey will be a focal point after a recent conversation with President-elect Joe Biden.
“The needs of New Jersey are being put front and center for the incoming Administration,” said Murphy at a press briefing Dec. 7. “We look forward to a fruitful partnership for our state and for our residents regardless of what your political persuasion is. We are in the business of looking out for all nine million of us.”
Murphy said the conversation held this past weekend focused on three topics: a coronavirus pandemic response, the need for federal stimulus, and infrastructure investment.
The governor praised the President-Elect for putting together a “tremendously talented and experienced team” to guide COVID-19 policy making and was pleased to hear Dr. Anthony Fauci was asked to stay on as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases just as a vaccine is ready to be distributed.
“We discussed the need to ensure the continued smooth roll-out of vaccines as that process is going to be handed off from the current administration to the incoming one,” said Murphy. “I have every confidence in the President-elect and his team to ensure this process continues without disruption.”
The first-term Democratic governor stressed his administration has had extraordinary cooperation and partnership with Trump Administration officials throughout this pandemic, including Vice-President Mike Pence, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie.
The need for Federal aid and the need for a comprehensive stimulus package were discussed for the next Congress as negotiations on a $908 billion bipartisan and bicameral plan being pushed by Rep. Josh Gottheimer and Sen. Joe Manchin continues. Murphy revealed the President-elect himself brought the subject of state and local aid up in their conversation, an issue the governor has championed in recent months.
“I told the President-elect that while we would certainly welcome every penny of assistance in the bipartisan plan currently being negotiated, more is needed,” said Murphy. “History (will) not dismiss us for going big and bold at this time. History will, however, judge us if we fail to ensure that the many needs of our states and people are adequately met.”
The governor said besides President-elect Biden, he had discussed the bill with members of Congress that in his view the needs of states across the U.S. are at a much higher cost. Murphy said the funding would go to ”the various mouths we need to feed, especially unemployed, small business, restaurant, state and local budgets…that allow us to continue to employ the front-line workers delivering the services that are being delivered in our hour of need.”
“In my opinion, this is a three-ish plus trillion dollar moment,” said Murphy. “I think it’ll be devastatingly unkind, in particular to individuals and to small businesses if we undershoot. We need it badly.”
Beside immediate federal aid, Murphy made his case for a “robust” federal investment in infrastructure that the governor believes will help secure the Garden State’s economic future.
Gateway a Priority
“For us, here, that means principally getting the Gateway project prioritized and funded,” said Murphy. “I’m extremely hopeful that this project will move under President Biden’s Administration and I offer my and our Administration’s partnership in any way as needed to get (Gateway) off the drawing board and into reality. It is simply passed time. “
While New York state recently made a proposal to fix the train tunnels under the Hudson River now instead of waiting for the Gateway project to be completed, Murphy characterized President-elect Biden and his team as being aligned with New Jersey officials preferences.
“(They are) Gateway all the time…this is a huge priority for them. It’s a huge priority for us,” said Murphy. “We’ve been able to get good progress even with the Trump Administration on the Portal North Bridge (but) I’m very excited about the potential enormous step, quantum step we could take with the Biden Administration.“