State Regulators Commit $3.7 Million to Research Effects of Offshore Wind Development – State regulators from the NJ Department of Environmental Protection and the Board of Public Utilities announced on March 25 the commitment of $3.7 million for research on the effects of offshore wind development on marine life. Offshore wind development forms a significant part of Gov. Murphy’s plan to transition to clean energy. Funds will go to establishing and expanding studies of birds and bats, sea turtles, whales, and the Mid-Atlantic Cold Pool. 


Gov. Murphy Creates Task Force on Pandemic Preparedness – On March 22, Gov. Murphy signed Executive Order 356, which establishes the Task Force on Pandemic and Emergency Preparedness. The order follows the release of an independent report on NJ’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which identified failures in the federal and state response and offered recommendations for the state to prepare for similar emergencies. Dr. Kaitlan Baston, commissioner of the Department of Health, and State Police Col. Patrick Callahan will co-chair the Task Force, which will include senior governmental officials from across the state. 

Public Administration

Judge Blocks Use of Controversial “County Line” Ballots in June 4 Primary – In a March 29 decision, U.S. District Court Judge Zahid Quraishi granted the request of litigant U.S. Representative and candidate for U.S. Senate Andy Kim, issuing an emergency preliminary injunction on the use in the 2024 NJ Democratic Primary of “county ballots,” a controversial ballot design unique to the state. The design gives preferential placement to candidates endorsed by county parties and has long received criticism for enabling the influence of party bosses. Rep. Andy Kim alleged in his suit that the design was unconstitutional and favored his then-opponent, First Lady Tammy Murphy. Seventeen county clerks, defendants in the suit, appealed the order on March 29, citing feasibility concerns given the closeness of the election. The judge’s decision on the appeal and final ruling on the case remain pending. 

Nonpartisan Budget Review in Line with Governor’s: Warns of Structural Deficit Effects – The nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services presented on March 25 an analysis of Gov. Murphy’s proposed fiscal year 2025 budget, which is much in line with the governor’s, forecasting revenue of $54.1 billion in the 2025 fiscal year. The Office’s representatives warned that planned spending will mean a structural deficit of $1.8 billion and set the state on a path to drain its $8.1 billion surplus by 2027. 


MTA Board Approves Congestion Pricing for Cars Entering Manhattan Below 59th St. – On March 27, the Board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority approved a plan to charge car drivers $15 to enter Manhattan below 59th St., from 5 am-9 pm on weekdays and 9 am-9 pm on weekends, with exemptions for certain vehicles. The plan should go into effect on June 15; however, it faces several legal challenges which could delay or stop its implementation. The State of New Jersey sued the United States Department of Transportation to stop the plan in July 2023, arguing that (1) congestion pricing will place a significant financial burden on residents of NJ who commute to Manhattan for work; (2) the federal government should have conducted a more robust environmental impact study on the plan’s potential to worsen traffic in NJ. The policy aims to reduce traffic congestion and pollution while raising $1 billion in revenue per year, which will support $15 billion in bonds to fund capital improvements for New York City public transit, such as installing modern signal technology, accessibility infrastructure, and flood protection. 

Murphy Signs Into Law New EV Registration Fee and Gas Tax Hike – On March 26, Murphy signed into law A4011/S2931 (codified as P.L.2024, c.7.), which reauthorizes the Transportation Trust Fund until June 2029 and ups its spending and borrowing capacities; increases the target revenue for gas taxes to $2.37 billion by 2028, which should lead to an estimated 2-cent annual gas tax increase; and establishes a new electric vehicle registration fee, which will increase annually, starting at $250 on July 1. These changes should bring in an additional $207.4 million in annual revenue by the 2029 fiscal year, which will fund transportation infrastructure capital improvements. 


Board of New Maternal and Infant Health Innovation Authority Holds First Meeting – The 13-member board of the Maternal and Infant Health Innovation Authority met for the first time on March 27. Legislation passed in July 2023 established the new quasi-independent authority and tasked it with improving maternal health outcomes in the state, particularly for women of color. The state has appropriated over $75 million to the Authority to construct a Trenton facility for clinical birthing and wraparound services, with oversight from the state Economic Development Authority. The board consists of healthcare workers, social services providers, and representatives from seven state agencies.