Get Informed About New Jersey’s Gubernatorial Election

While electoral politics may not be foremost on Princetonians’ minds this offseason election cycle, there are in fact several important elections taking place around the country this year, including in New Jersey. On November 7, 2017, New Jerseyans will vote for the next Governor and Lieutenant Governor of the Garden State. The Republican ticket includes current Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of State Kim Guadagno and her running mate Carlos Rendo, the mayor of Woodcliff Lake. Phil Murphy, the United States Ambassador to Germany from 2009-2013 and a former Goldman Sachs executive, is the Democratic nominee for Governor, while his running mate is Sheila Oliver, a state Assemblywoman from the 34th district.

In addition to Princeton students who grew up in New Jersey, other students not originally from the state may have registered to vote in New Jersey during college. The Board supports this political engagement and encourages students who are registered in New Jersey to vote in the upcoming gubernatorial election. However, students who do vote first and foremost have an obligation to be informed about the issues at stake in this election. Most of the campaign issues, such as property taxes, education spending, and steps to address New Jersey’s grossly underfunded pension obligations, have no impact on students from out-of-state, yet greatly impact year-round New Jersey residents. We urge all students to carefully examine these issues and not simply vote down their typical party line without thinking critically about Guadagno’s and Murphy’s platforms. While most of the campaign issues do not impact us as students, the Board would like to highlight two issues that will likely affect Princetonians: marijuana legalization or decriminalization and the state minimum wage.

Guadagno and Murphy clash on their proposals for marijuana: Murphy advocates legalization and taxation of marijuana, while Guadagno advocates decriminalization of recreational marijuana with an expansion of medical marijuana use. The Board leaves it to individual students to examine the literature on the factors at stake with this issue, which include public health and safety considerations and state tax revenues. Crucially, under either candidate it seems that penalties will be less harsh for marijuana usage. This would directly impact students because of the University’s recent policy shift for Public Safety to send marijuana users directly to the Princeton Police Department for arrest. With less harsh penalties likely forthcoming regardless of who wins, we urge students to be respectful of themselves and those surrounding them in their campus behavior.

Turning to the minimum wage, Murphy advocates raising the state minimum wage from its current $8.44-an-hour to $15-an-hour over the next several years. In a recent debate between the candidates, Guadagno said she opposes this change because it would “take away the very jobs they're intended to protect,” referencing jobs for young adults with less experience and low-income earners. Assuming there would be no campus exemption for this change, an increase to a $15/hour minimum wage would directly impact Princeton students, as well as other University employees, in a broadly negative way that the Board opposes.

Hourly wages for student workers range from $8.45 to $14.80, meaning a $15 minimum wage would increase the costs of hiring all student workers. A classic minimum wage tradeoff would likely result. Some students may earn more from having their wages increase, but other students as well as low-wage University employees could lose their jobs because their hourly services may not be worth $15 or more to the University. Research examining recent steep minimum wage increases in other cities has shown that the sort of change Murphy advocates has significant negative impacts on the youngest and least experienced workers, such as college students, with particularly deleterious impacts for minorities.

Accordingly the Board opposes a $15 minimum wage increase. While some may respond jobs would not be lost at Princeton because of the University’s large endowment, everything has trade-offs. If the University needed to spend vastly more on wages, it would necessarily need to cut spending in other valuable areas such as financial aid, professor hiring, and new construction. Moreover, other colleges in the state do not have similarly large endowments as ours, making an increase in wage costs particularly devastating to low-wage employees and students at other educational institutions, not to mention the thousands of low-wage New Jersey employees this change would negatively impact across the state.

Republican Kim Guadagno and Democrat Phil Murphy offer very different platforms on a number of issues that will impact New Jersey residents. They also disagree over two issues of particular relevance to Princeton students: marijuana and the minimum wage. The Board expressly disagrees with Murphy’s proposal to raise New Jersey’s minimum wage to $15-an-hour, which would harm the employment prospects of student workers and other low-wage earners in the state. Most importantly, though, the Board urges all University community members who are registered to vote in New Jersey to research the Gubernatorial candidates and their stances on key issues so that they can be informed voters on November 7.