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You are here: Home News "Beyond Bergen" - News From Across New Jersey Slight to South Jersey in Murphy message was petty | Editorial

News From "Beyond Bergen"

Slight to South Jersey in Murphy message was petty | Editorial

It's tough to believe that the governor's exclusion of any mention of South Jersey points in his annual message was just an oversight. Let's hope actions speak louder than words.

It would be difficult to imagine that, after a year like 2018, former Gov. Chris Christie would have given a 2019 State of the State address that didn't mention any successes, modest though they might be, in Camden and Atlantic City. 

There was continued progress in Camden's schools, and a further reduction in its overall crime rate. Atlantic City welcomed the reopening of two casinos, as well as ribbon-cuttings on a new Stockton University branch and a South Jersey Gas headquarters.

From current Gov. Phil Murphy, not a peep about either city. And, while Murphy's remarks were short on audience "shout-outs" of the type that President Ronald Reagan made famous, there were acknowledgements to the mayors of Newark and Plainfield, and innovative programs in Jersey City. Mars (Hackettstown and Newark) Teva Pharmaceuticals (Parsippany-Troy Hills) and the RealReal (Perth Amboy) were mentioned as responsible users of state business development programs.

Murphy highlighted a "dreamer" from Orange now attending an Essex County college, and the owner of a home-brewing supply company in North Brunswick. Scouring the text of Murphy's address from top to bottom, we couldn't find an allusion to anyone, any company, or any government entity in the southern third of the state worthy of praise. It's surprising that Murphy remembered to acknowledge Jim Florio, who is from Camden County, among former governors who attended Tuesday's speech.

It's seems obvious that the governor's choice to ignore South Jersey was  intentional, probably the latest incarnation of an intra-party spat with Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester. But the snub to all of the counties south of Trenton is petty. It's also insulting to the large number of people and businesses trying to make a difference in our region.

With so much of the governor's remarks focused on needed reforms to the Economic Development Authority tax incentive programs that threw scads of tax breaks at companies willing to move to Camden, it's understandable that Murphy wouldn't mention that it's great to have Subaru stay in South Jersey due to one of one of those Camden deals. It wouldn't have fit Tuesday's narrative.

Look, we've been critical of the same EDA programs that Murphy, and a just-finished audit he commissioned, attacked. There's too little oversight, too little rationalization of per-job incentive amounts, no restriction on poaching jobs from nearby New Jersey suburbs, and considerable evidence that associates of South Jersey power broker George Norcross III had a pipeline to a lot of the EDA's Camden handouts. And, yes, the recent programs that tilted EDA resources to Camden were the brainchild of Sweeney and U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross, D-1st Dist., George's brother and a state senator at the time they were conceived.

Is that a reason for Murphy to toss away a whole region along with some of its brackish bath water? We don't think so. So, we'll remind the governor again -- as we did when his initial transition team and cabinet picks showed a lack of geographic diversity -- that New Jersey's southern border is not New Brunswick. And there a lot of people in a lot of need in Cumberland and Salem counties.

If seen through to fruition, many of Murphy's priorities, such as a boosted minimum wage and a more responsive NJ Transit, will lift all boats, all over the state. But believe it or not, governor, some of those boats are harbored in shore towns located below Asbury Park and Long Branch.

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