ATLANTIC CITY – Eight years ago as governor-elect, Chris Christie made memorable remarks at the League of Municipalities convention about bipartisan compromise and meeting “in the center of the room” to forge solutions to tricky problems.

There were no such rhetorical flourishes Thursday from Gov.-elect Phil Murphy, who promised pragmatism, optimism and enthusiasm as he reiterated his campaign platform as the keynote speaker wrapping up the annual three-day conference of municipal officials.

“I am an optimist, but I’m not naïve,” Murphy said. “It won’t be easy, and it certainly won’t be overnight. But let there be no doubt: New Jersey is poised to be the comeback story of this nation.”

Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, shrugged off a reporter’s question comparing Murphy’s 14-minute speech to the memorable addresses of the outgoing governor.

“Listen, everyone has different strengths,” Sweeney said. “You know what I mean? The hell with the speech. How about governing? We’ll see how the governing goes. We’re looking forward to that.”

Murphy stuck to familiar ground in his maiden speech to the league convention, telling mayors his administration will solicit their advice, do its homework and be engaged in details. He didn’t address municipal officials’ most pressing concern, the expiring arbitration cap on police and fire contracts.

He said he wants New Jersey to again become a state where bold ideas happens.

“I want New Jersey to once again be the place that sets the national standard for progressive and innovative public policy ideas,” Murphy said.

Murphy said he would seek to raise taxes on the wealthy and biggest corporations: “This is not class warfare by any means, it is equity.”

But Sweeney said at the conference that he’d slow the consideration of a millionaires’ tax to consider the impact of whatever federal tax changes may be approved by Congress. He said the current plans “would have a staggering effect in New Jersey” including reductions in property values and an increase in foreclosures.

“Anybody that votes for this in New Jersey should be run out of office,” Sweeney said.

Four of the state’s five Republican House members voted against the tax plan Thursday – all but Rep. Tom MacArthur, who backed it after the state and local tax deduction was partially restored at $10,000. All the Democrats in the House voted against the bill, which passed 227-205.

Murphy said the negative impacts of the tax plans moving through Congress – which he called “the Trump property tax hike” – would overwhelm the property tax relief he says would be achieved by fully funding the school-aid formula.

“We can’t let Washington take that away. We give enough at the federal store already,” Murphy said.

There were sparse references to Christie, who didn't attend this year's convention, which is the last of his eight years as governor. He and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno were mentioned in the prayer before lunch, and outgoing Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian – who battled intensely with Christie over a state takeover of the city – welcomed the state transfer of power.

"This year we get two Christmases," Guardian said. "Dec. 25 and Jan. 16, when we have a new governor in Phil Murphy."

New Jersey: Decoded cuts through the cruft and gets to what matters in New Jersey news and politics. Follow on Facebook and Twitter.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5 and the editor of New Jersey: Decoded. Follow @NJDecoded on Twitter and Facebook. Contact him at

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