COVID-19 vaccine brings 'light on horizon,' Murphy says in 3rd state of the state address

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy says in his State of the State speech that the COVID-19 vaccine is giving residents a sense of promise that people will be able to gather again.

His annual address is typically given during a joint legislative session in the Trenton statehouse. But because of coronavirus distancing rules, Murphy prerecorded the speech.


It was aired Tuesday on social media. The outbreak has taken hold of the agenda. Restaurants and bars still face capacity limits, many schools are teaching remotely, and masking and distancing requirements remain in place.

So far, about 233,000 people have been vaccinated out of about 400,000 doses.

"We will begin to see the light on the horizon get a little brighter," the Democrat said. "Be assured, we will get back to being able to gather and celebrate with our families and friends. We will be able to see all our children back in the schools they love. We will see our economy recover and flourish."

Though COVID-19 dominated part of the speech, the first-term governor also recapped a list of achievements he and the Democratic-led Legislature cooperated on, a clear acknowledgment that he will be on the ballot this year, the first executive to face voters in the Joe Biden era, along with Virginia.

Despite starts and stops and occasional sparring with Democratic legislative leaders, Murphy has delivered on a number of the promises he campaigned on, including phasing in a $15-per-hour minimum wage, raising taxes on incomes over $1 million, and increasing state spending on K-12 education.

A big item still pending is legalization of recreational marijuana for those 21 and older, which voters approved by a 2-to-1 ratio in November.

Lawmakers sent Murphy a bill to set up the marketplace and overhaul criminal justice law concerning marijuana, though he still has not signed it amid a disagreement with lawmakers over how to handle prosecutions for those under 21. On Tuesday, Murphy didn’t indicate whether he would sign that bill.

"This hasn’t been an easy fight, nor has it happened as quickly as I would have liked, but we are in a better place, a smarter place, and a more just place than ever before."

The speech also comes after a historic insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, where backers of President Donald Trump stormed the building as Congress sought to certify Biden’s victory.

Murphy didn’t name Trump but said the mob was incited by the government’s highest-ranking politicians. He called on combating efforts to invalidate the election by expanding voting. He said he will work on legislation to authorize early in-person voting in New Jersey.

New Jersey currently doesn’t allow that option, requiring voters to get mail-in ballots if they want to vote early.

Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick pointed out disagreements with Murphy’s policies, particularly those that increase costs and taxes, leading, he said, to residents exiting the state.

But he also talked at length about the Capitol attacks, calling them disgraceful and asking for partisans not to get personal.

"I deeply disagree with Gov. Murphy’s approach to many of the areas of governing New Jersey, but he has been to my house. I have been to his house, and I feel confident that most New Jerseyans and most Americans are people of goodwill," he said. ""We are not enemies. We are members of different political parties."

Murphy said he’s "demanding newels of transparency and accountability." The call comes as The Associated Press and other news organizations in New Jersey face mixed responses from Murphy’s administration when seeking records showing public spending.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 


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The Associated Press contributed to this report.