By The Staff
No one can see the future, Save Jerseyans, but, as Scrooge discovered in A Christmas Carol, we’re sometimes able to glimpse “shadows of things that May be” should current events maintain their present trajectory.
So yes, there are things which “we” (our regular contributors + insiders/veteran observers whom we informally polled to compile this list) can reasonably expect in New Jersey’s 2019 barring an environment-upsetting script flip over the next twelve months. And that’s the beautiful thing about the future! It isn’t written yet. We could be totally wrong on a few or even most predictions.
Where a few of these predictions are concerned? We very much hope we’re wrong.
For now, here are some predictions for the New Year:
– MORE TAXES: The easiest one to predict by a mile! Democrat Senate President Steve Sweeney will cave and assent to a new round of massive tax hikes baked into the FY 2020 budget. Murphy will want more, Sweeney and Speaker Coughlin will argue him back a bit, and the legislative Dems will tout the resulting budget (the largest in N.J. history) as a “success.” It will be a success for Democrats in one very narrow sense of the word: a healthy number of Republicans will vote for the budget, giving Assembly Democrats running in battleground districts the cover they need to vote “no.”
– MINIMUM WAGE: Legislation hiking New Jersey’s minimum wage will be passed and signed in 2019, but the state will opt for a circuitous route akin to what Seattle attempted as opposed to the relatively quick overnight hike to $15 per hour favored by the governor and the Democrat Party’s
proREgressive base. The seeds of division in New Jersey’s Democrat establishment — further fueled by a contentious state party chairmanship fight — will continue to take root.
– LEGAL POT: Recreational cannabis legalization will be signed into law in 2019, too, but it won’t end up going into effect until after a prolonged period of regulation creation (the whole process has been rushed to date) and, when it finally launches, it will fetch only 2/3 of the revenue projected by Democrat leaders. Democrats will settle on a tax rate somewhere in the high teens.
– KATIE BRENNAN: Phil Murphy will survive the Katie Brennan scandal after some symbolic resignations and a tortured ‘apology’ for not doing more, but clear evidence that he KNOWINGLY ignored an alleged, credible female rape victim will haunt his long-term national ambitions in the same way that Bridgegate — and the persistent belief that Christie KNEW or approved of the plan to lean on Fort Lee’s Democrat mayor — bedeviled Murphy’s Republican predecessor (and continues to do so).
– CHRIS CHRISTIE: …will conclude 2019 without a Trump Administration job. The Governor will surprise some by playing an active, behind-the-scenes role in the 2019 legislative elections here at home as well as the early stages of the 2021 gubernatorial race through the efforts of his long-time right hand man and NJGOP national committeeman Bill Palatucci. Christie’s new book – Let Me Finish: Trump, the Kushners, Bannon, New Jersey, and the Power of In-Your-Face Politics – will be released on January 29th and end up being a moderate success driven by a substantial market for anything related to Trump. He will not re-friend Matt Rooney on Facebook or re-follow Save Jersey on Twitter.
– ELECTION 2020 (Democrat): Actually THIS is the easiest one to predict! Gropacus (a/k/a Cory Booker) will announce a 2020 presidential campaign in early 2019 and spend most of his time Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina among other early primary/caucus states in addition to campaigning/fundraising for Democrat gubernatorial and legislative candidates across the country. Unfortunately for Booker, establishment options (like Biden and Clinton), the billionaire wildcard (Bloomberg), and the new leftist heroes of 2018 (like Beto and Gillium) will leave little oxygen in a crowded field for a well-known New Jersey candidate with a fraction of the purported electoral appeal to purple state voters of a Biden, Beto, or even a Gillium and less ideology purity (see Booker’s prescription drug votes) than some of other other popular options. He might make it to New Hampshire next winter. Might.
– ELECTION 2020 (Republican): President Trump will host a reelection launch event by the end of 2019. One or a handful of GOP also-rans — like outgoing Ohio Governor John Kasich — will launch primary campaigns that go nowhere fast given Trump’s persistent popularity with a healthy majority of the Republican base. Trump will also end 2020 continuing to poll frustratingly well among Hispanic and Black voters. Trump’s strength with these groups (relative to Romney in 2012) may ultimately offset recent Republican weaknesses in affluent suburbs where the President’s style has turned off traditional GOP-leaning educated women. Only time will tell.
Self-funders will announce in NJ-02, NJ-03 AND NJ-05; Seth Grossman will announce in the latter. Tom Kean Jr. will announce for NJ-07 but he will draw a primary challenge.
– ELECTION 2019: Trump is the straw that’s breaking the back of a long-weakened New Jersey Republican establishment, and while “the bottom” is in sight, there’s still more losing ahead. Trenton Republicans are likely to suffer a narrow net loss in this year’s Assembly races; losses in Northern New Jersey suburban districts will be somewhat offset by pick ups in LD1 and LD2. Democrats may try to expand the map to LD12, LD26, and LD39, too, but those conquests will take more than one cycle. Republicans will fight like hell to hold on in Somerset and claw their way to a 2-3 minority on the Burlington freeholder board; the former fight will go to a recount, and the latter battle will come up a hair short.
– IMMIGRATION: Trump and Democrats will reach a watered-down compromise on border security and DACA, one which leaves many unhappy on both sides of the aisle but one which also allows Trump to claim another legislative “victory.” His core supporters won’t mind; the shutdown will end with partial border wall funding, too. ICE will continue to clash with the Murphy Administration over this state’s sanctuary policies, conducting large-scale raids on a regular basis.
– IMPEACHMENT: Mueller’s formal investigation will (finally) end and the President will come off looking bad in the final report. More indictments are coming. Trump will not be indicted notwithstanding the contents of Mueller’s final report, and the people who came out for him in 2016 knew he wasn’t an angel, so the political impact will be muted. House Democrats will fight among themselves over the far-left wing’s desire for a vote on articles of impeachment. The leadership will push back, worried about repeating the Republicans’ Clinton era impeachment mistake. Trump will raise a ton of money online off of the impeachment threat, giving the 2020 incumbent and his RNC a dramatic fundraising edge over the Democrat opposition.
– ECONOMY: The stock market will continue to see-saw early in 2019 until a CR ends the partial government shutdown, though the threat of an impeachment vote continues to inject uncertainty into investors’ minds. A combination of cheap energy, growing wages, and a strong housing market nevertheless keep the economy growing albeit at a slower clip than it did throughout most of Trump’s first two years in office. New Jersey’s horrendous business tax climate and new taxes/regulations from the Murphy Administration will keep our state at the bottom of the national heap with anemic job growth.