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Taxes, Infrastructure, Drug Laws Among Subjects Of Questions For N.J. Gubernatorial Candidates At Virtual Town Hall

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Facebook and Reddit users posed more questions Monday for the New Jersey gubernatorial candidates at a second virtual town hall meeting.

CBS2's Kristine Johnson and The Record's Alfred Doblin analyzed the social media users' questions and where Democratic nominee Phil Murphy and Republican nominee Kim Guadagno stand on the issues specifically affecting northern New Jersey.

Tax policy, infrastructure repairs and drug laws were among the issues raised. Johnson and Doblin also discussed what might come next for Gov. Chris Christie after he leaves office at the end of the year.

Doblin noted that the campaign between Murphy and Guadagno is moving into comparison with past governors – Murphy to Democrat Jon Corzine who also came from the finance sector, and Guadagno to Christie, under whom she serves as lieutenant governor.

The Guadagno campaign has also attempted to link Murphy to U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) who is now on trial for corruption allegations. Someone from the Guadagno campaign was even seen handed out M&M's to represent Menendez and Murphy, Doblin said.

One social media user asked about the New Jersey gas tax. The tax goes up by 23 cents per gallon last fall after 28 years of no change, so as to keep the state's Transportation Trust Fund from running dry.

Doblin noted that Guadagno broke with Christie on the gas tax as lieutenant governor – she came out against raising the tax while Christie favored it.

But eliminating the tax is not likely to be a priority for either candidate, given that the extra 23 cents instituted last ear is "basically keeping everything afloat," Doblin said.

Doblin also said he did not expect either candidate to change policies when it comes to drug laws specifically concerning opioids. He said Christie was a leader on the issue, with such accomplishment as instituting drug courts.

As for legalization of marijuana, Doblin noted that Murphy favors it and believes it will generate new tax revenue, but, "I think he's blowing the wrong smoke on that one."

A Reddit user asked how the candidates would repair the state's crumbling infrastructure and poor-quality roads, as well as construction projects that have never been finished.

Doblin said both Guadagno and Murphy want to invest in infrastructure. He also noted that Christie did not want to raise taxes, and while the Pulaski Skyway was rebuilt on his watch, he also killed a plan for a new Hudson River rail tunnel.

Doblin said in campaigning, Murphy will likely link Guadagno to Christie and his decision to cancel the tunnel in 2010.

Meanwhile, there are reports that Murphy wants to privatize roadways and other infrastructure such as the New Jersey Turnpike on a limited basis, in what is known as "asset monetization," Doblin said. Doblin noted that Corzine was also a proponent.

Doblin said both Guadagno and Murphy recognize that "one of the largest single failures of the Christie administration is no investment in mass transit."

Johnson later asked what Christie might be doing in the future. The governor auditioned for a sports radio role on WFAN, but said last month that he was no longer interested in seeking the job.

Doblin said many people can imagine Christie as a commentator on a cable news station, or he could be in a high-profile law position somewhere.

"I think it's a mistake to write him off," Doblin said. "You know, his popularity is very low, but he doesn't need to be elected anymore, so it doesn't necessarily matter."

As to sports radio, Johnson said of Christie, "It did seem like he would have a good time, but I don't know if he would have found it completely fulfilling in the end."

Doblin added, "Even if you're dong sports radio, there's not a lot of sexiness to any form of journalism."

A gubernatorial debate is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 18, at William Paterson University in Wayne. It is sponsored by The Record and other Gannett newspapers, CBS2, and KYW-TV, CBS3 Philadelphia.


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