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Murphy touts new wind, cannabis industries to NJ Chamber of Commerce

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Gov. Phil Murphy waves to the crowd as he leaves the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Business Summit on Wednesday at Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa in Atlantic City.

ATLANTIC CITY — Gov. Phil Murphy told the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday that the state’s economy is outpacing the nation’s in growth, and his administration is making strides in improving affordability in one of the most heavily taxed states in the nation.

The governor, reelected to another four-year term in 2021 by a narrow margin, celebrated the recent creation of several new industry sectors “virtually from scratch,” citing offshore wind, film and television, and adult use recreational cannabis.

Murphy gave the keynote address at the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce’s ReNew Jersey Business Summit and Expo at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa.

New Jersey has had two consecutive credit upgrades, Murphy said of recent reports from both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s.

“There is no other way to put it, these upgrades are an endorsement of our fiscal strategies and practices,” Murphy said. “They are the result of careful investment and in meeting — finally — our state’s long-term obligations.”

Murphy did not take questions after his speech.

New Jersey Chamber President Tom Bracken told Murphy he believes the governor has turned New Jersey into the fairest economy in the nation, but “we need to make it also the strongest in the country, and we want to work with you to do that.”

Bracken was referring to Murphy’s “stronger, fairer New Jersey” promise, which has become a virtual mantra for the governor.

The Murphy administration, however, has increased spending 41% since taking office, a level Republicans and some business leaders have criticized, and the state Office of Legislative Services has said would not likely be sustainable if a downturn occurs.

New industries are vital to the state’s economy, Murphy said, adding he is meeting with members of the Motion Picture Association board Thursday to talk about bringing more filmmakers here.

It took longer than anyone wanted for the recreational cannabis industry to begin, Murphy said. The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission voted Monday to allow seven entities in 13 locations that already sell medical marijuana to also sell recreational cannabis. But the commission did not set a date for when sales would begin.

“I would rather us be right than fast,” Murphy said. “I want our legal adult-use cannabis industry to be a national model, and I think we’re there.”

Approvals included licenses for The Botanist, for its locations in Egg Harbor Township and in Williamstown, and Columbia Care, which has a dispensary on Delsea Drive in Vineland.

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Murphy also said he will return to Atlantic City in two weeks, after taking an economic trip to Ireland, to address the International Offshore Wind Partnering Forum.

The wind industry is a new economic driver that will help wean the U.S. off fossil fuels from unfriendly nations like Russia, Murphy said.

“The wind forum is coming at a critical time, with the South Jersey Wind Port and the Paulsboro Marine Terminal, and their roughly 1,500 good-paying jobs, starting to become a reality, and with the Board of Public Utilities continuing its aggressive wind-solicitation timetable,” Murphy said.

The fourth quarter 2021 state GDP figures that came out two weeks ago showed an annualized growth rate of 7.4% for New Jersey, Murphy said, “a half-point above the national figure.”

The manufacturing, scientific and technical services, and information sectors each grew in excess of 11%, Murphy said.

Venture capital investment has skyrocketed under his administration, he said. In 2017, New Jersey attracted $818 million in venture capital investment, compared with $5.5 billion in 2021.

“So the indicators point to a growing state economy, but now the challenge is to ensure it keeps expanding,” Murphy said, through business incentive programs.

Murphy saved the affordability issue, which Republican Jack Ciattarelli’s near victory against Murphy highlighted in 2021, for near the end of his speech.

“Many of the concerns you hold are the same held by your employees and countless other families across our state. They, and you, want us to be responsive and responsible, and we all want to make our state more affordable,” Murphy said.

He said containing heath care costs remains among the top issues for businesses, and said he has begun working with medical providers, insurers and consumer advocates to generate the first comprehensive data about what drives up health care costs.

“Further, I am working with my legislative partners on a package of bills aimed at lowering the costs of prescription medications,” Murphy said.

He also said his administration has done more than any of his predecessors to slow the increase in property taxes — consistently the first or second highest in the nation.

“Over the past four years, property taxes in New Jersey have experienced their slowest rate of growth on record,” Murphy said. “We’ve achieved this through careful and strategic investment ... in the cost drivers behind our high property taxes — most notably in putting billions of dollars of new funding into our public schools.”

The chamber convention continues Thursday morning with panels discussing the labor shortage, workforce development and state legislative priorities. It ends at noon Thursday.

REPORTER: Michelle Brunetti Post 609-841-2895 mpost@pressofac.com

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In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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