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Phil Murphy lays out aggressive agenda in Atlantic City speech

ATLANTIC CITY — New Jersey Gov.-elect Phil Murphy laid out an aggressive agenda for his first year in office that included raising taxes on millionaires, fully funding public education, fixing NJ Transit lines and restoring funds for women’s health care.

It was all part of what he said will be “the comeback story of this nation” for New Jersey’s economy.

Speaking at the closing luncheon at the Sheraton Hotel for the event of the New Jersey League of Municipalities convention, Murphy told the ballroom audience of elected and public officials New Jersey’s best days will be ahead of it, not behind.

“I ran for governor because I want to be part of the solution, not just someone standing on the sidelines complaining,” Murphy said. “I intend to govern with the same optimism and enthusiasm with which I campaigned.”

Although his 15-minute speech did not offer many details on how he plans to implement the new policies, Murphy pledged some of his top priorities will be to fully fund public schools, which he says will provide property-tax relief, pass “common sense” gun legislation, make sure the wealthiest people and corporations pay “their fair share,” legalize marijuana, and fix long-standing problems with NJ Transit.

“It drives me crazy that in the densest state in the nation — the fourth smallest geographically — a state that sits between the largest market in the world in New York and one of the largest in the country in Philadelphia, we can’t get people to work on time,” he said.

He also used part of his speech to criticize the federal tax reform plan backed by President Donald Trump and many Republicans in Congress, saying New Jersey residents are being singled out for a federal tax increase. He called on both Republicans and Democrats to stand against the tax-reform policy because the state would be negatively affected by it.

The speech and luncheon were a signal of new leadership and policies in New Jersey. Many of those policies proposed by Murphy generated loud cheers from the crowd of municipal leaders from across the state.

Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian, a Republican, told the crowd people in both parties are counting down the days until Murphy takes over from Gov. Chris Christie.

“There is going to be two Christmases,” Guardian said. “December 25 and January 16, the day we get a new governor.”

Teen murder suspect who escaped Harborfields captured with a handgun

{child_flags:breaking}ALL 4 CAPTURED


Staff Writers


ATLANTIC CITY — After a nearly two-day manhunt, the last of the four juvenile inmates who escaped from the Harborfields juvenile detention center was captured in the city Thursday morning.

Michael Huggins, an 18-year-old who was previously charged with murder as a juvenile, was arrested about 10:30 a.m. on the 100 block of N. South Carolina Avenue by members of the State Police, Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner said at a news conference Thursday afternoon.

Huggins had a handgun at the time of his arrest, but it was not the handgun of a law-enforcement officer, Tyner said.

Huggins was taken into custody without incident and was sent to the Atlantic County jail.

“That is being further investigated, as to how he came into possession of a handgun,” Tyner said.

Four teenagers broke out of the juvenile detention center in Egg Harbor City after midnight Wednesday by overpowering a corrections officer and stealing a guard’s car, authorities said. A corrections officer was injured and taken to a hospital. The teens later crashed the car and ditched it ahead of a pursuing police cruiser.

Several hours later, three of the youths were captured in Bridgeton, Cumberland County, about 35 miles west.

Stephine Woodley, Raymir Lampkin and Donovan Nickerson were identified as the three teens caught in Bridgeton. Their ages, hometowns and alleged crimes were not released. Before their capture, authorities said the escapees were 18, 17 and two 16-year-olds.

Huggins remained at large overnight Wednesday and into Thursday morning. He was arrested near Carolina Village Apartments in the city after law enforcement received information that led them to him, Tyner said.

Two men were seen being led in handcuffs to awaiting police vehicles at the scene. Tyner would not comment on the second man’s identity or any additional arrests.

He said it was “unclear” why Huggins went to the apartment, but the people who live in the apartment where Huggins was found were cooperating with police and have not been charged at this time, Tyner said.

“We’re continuing the investigation and we’re investigating all leads that may suggest that there are accomplices involved,” Tyner said.

Huggins was charged with escape, robbery, assault of a law enforcement officer and conspiracy, Tyner said. He will be charged as an adult with possession of a handgun, among other charges, pending further investigation.

Tyner said it’s still under investigation how long Huggins was in the city and how all of the teens got to their respective locations.

“He’s being charged with conspiracy, so we do in fact believe that it was a planned escape,” Tyner said.

Huggins previously was charged with murder in the Oct. 7, 2016, killing of Davonte Lee in Bridgeton and was considered dangerous, Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae said Wednesday.

Huggins was indicted on the murder charge and a motion was made to transfer him to the county jail, but the motion was denied, Tyner said. He could not elaborate on the details.

Laveina Smallwood, 30, lives in the complex with her two children where State Police escorted one man into a police car Thursday. She immediately crossed the street with her children, 10-year-old Harmony and 2-year-old Sincere, when police entered the apartment complex.

“I’m happy that they finally caught the young boy that escaped,” Smallwood said. “I feel safer they got them off the street.”

She and other residents complained about the alleged drug problem in the area.

“I try to stay away from this area because of all the drugs,” said Lisa Blight, 43.

Blight, who lives on the corner of N. South Carolina and Baltic avenues, said she traveled with a group of people to a nearby NJ Transit bus stop to take her 4-year-old daughter Faithann to school.

“I was petrified, and I was scared to even take my daughter to school this morning. It was dangerous, and I’m glad they caught all four of them, especially the fourth one with murder charges,” Blight said.

The Atlantic County Sheriff’s Office, the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office, the New Jersey State Police, the Bridgeton Police Department, the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office, the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Marshals Service and the FBI assisted in the two-day search, Tyner said.


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