TRENTON, New Jersey (WABC) -- New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy delivered his State of the State address on Tuesday afternoon.
The governor shared his vision for shaping the "Next New Jersey."
During the speech, he highlighted efforts to protect residents, grow the economy, secure the middle class and improve affordability.
He detailed a proposal to modernize the state's liquor license laws, shape economic incentives to address a new workforce reality, implement a first-in-the-nation naloxone initiative, extend the ANCHOR deadline and preserve boardwalks up and down the Jersey Shore.
"Over the past five years in office, we have come so far in our efforts to make New Jersey the State of Opportunity," said Governor Murphy. "I am proud of the steps we have taken to support families, advance our economy, and better our communities. New Jersey is where opportunity lives, education is valued, justice is embraced, compassion is the norm, and the American Dream is alive and well. And we will not stop working to make New Jersey stronger, fairer, and more affordable. As we move forward with these goals, I believe we can and will shape the next New Jersey on behalf of all who call our state home."
Murphy has responded to questions about a possible presidential candidacy by saying he would back President Joe Biden if he runs for reelection next year, leaving open the possibility he could consider running.
He drew other contrasts with GOP-led states.
Invoking tax incentive programs in Florida and Georgia aimed at attracting businesses, Murphy claimed New Jersey's third quarter of 2022 economic output outpaced their performance.
"Our clear record of success is greater than that of states that pay for huge tax breaks for the wealthiest and most powerful by taking away investments from public education and civic programs," Murphy said.
Unlike last year's state of the state declaration that he was "boldly progressive," Murphy called for bipartisanship and "reasonable, responsible government." It's a bit of a tone shift that comes as legislative Democrats face reelection after Murphy's own close victory in 2021.
He touted his work alongside Republican Utah Gov. Spencer Cox at the National Governors Association, saying that state and national politics needs less contempt and more friendship.
"Let us never forget that in the grand ranking of things we are partisans fourth, elected officials third, New Jerseyans second, and Americans first and foremost," Murphy said.
While he called for working with Republicans, his major accomplishments so far, like raising taxes on the wealthy, passing new gun control legislation, legalizing recreational marijuana and boosting funding for abortion services, were passed by the Democrat-dominated Legislature.
While the governor seemed to aim partly for a national audience, he also included plenty of state-level detail in the nearly hour-long address.
He unveiled a proposal to overhaul the state's Prohibition-era liquor license system for restaurants.
Because the state's liquor license laws restrict permits to one for every 3,000 residents, restaurateurs often pay dearly - up to seven figures - for such a license. That system shuts out many who can't afford the cost, he said.
Murphy called for gradually expanding the number of licenses until such restrictions are eliminated, and to compensate those who spent much for a license, he called for a "targeted tax credit."
He unveiled what he called a "Boardwalk Fund" to pay for upgrades to the shore's well-known seaside walkways, but with scant detail.
He told lawmakers he we would sign legislation that would tighten laws against auto theft if they sent him such a measure and he touted a property tax relief program enacted last year that he has said he wants to continue this year.
An emotional high point came when Murphy announced that four Ukrainian military service members who were receiving treatment in the United States were in the Assembly chamber. Lawmakers stood and applauded before Murphy intoned "Slava Ukraini" or glory to Ukraine.
It's the first time in three years that Murphy delivered the annual State of the State in person at the Statehouse in Trenton.
His last two addresses were virtual because of the coronavirus pandemic.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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