As state treasurer for New Jersey, Elizabeth Maher Muoio does a lot more than just review spreadsheets and crunch numbers all day — she is a community activist steadfast in her quest to make the capital city of Trenton an economically solid transportation hub in an equally financially sound state.
“I have the advantage of being privy to the full view of our finances while bearing the responsibility for our fiscal decisions for the Garden State,” she says. “More than 95 percent of Governor Murphy’s 2020 budget is a direct investment in transportation, education, and New Jersey Transit.”
Muoio will be the keynote speaker at the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, March 21, at 7:30 a.m. at the Trenton Country Club, 201 Sullivan Way, West Trenton. The event is part of the Trenton Economic Development series and Trenton mayor Reed Gusciora will give opening remarks. The cost is $35. Visit www.princetonchamber.org or call 609-924-1776.
A native of Michigan and the eldest of three daughters, Muoio is married to a New Jersey native and has lived in New Jersey for more than 20 years. She says her parents were influential in her career path as an attorney and then a politician. “My father is a lawyer, so I was exposed to the law from an early age,” she says. “I knew I ultimately wanted to work in government based in part on how I saw that training utilized by my father.”
Muoio received her law degree from Georgetown University School of Law and her undergraduate degree from Wesleyan. Her first job while in law school was working for longtime legislator and political warhorse Jack Brooks in Washington: this gives her the distinction of having worked at every level of government stretching from the Pennington Township Development Council to state assemblywoman and treasurer.
A longtime civic-minded community activist, Muoio has worked as a troop leader for the Girl Scouts of Delaware County and served as a member of the Princeton Chamber and the League of Women Voters. In addition, she was a Mercer County freeholder from 2000 to 2008 and a member of the Pennington Borough Council from 1997 to 2002.
As New Jersey’s most influential economist, she is always monitoring everything related to leveraging and managing the state coffers — perhaps with a focus on the ongoing and pervasive issues related to transportation. “As the former head of economic development for Mercer County, I know how critical a reliable transportation infrastructure is in moving our economy and our residents forward,” she says.
During her time in the General Assembly Muoio served on several committees that focused on issues essential to women and people of color including closing the gender pay equity gap, health care, environmental issues in impoverished communities, and prison re-entry initiatives. She was honored for her outspoken legislative efforts by a number of organizations including the Sierra Club of New Jersey, the Trenton Chapter of the NAACP, and the National Congress of Black Women.
She lauds the recent announcement of Governor Murphy’s 2020 budget, which, among other things, invests heavily in New Jersey Transit. “We were able to close a significant initial budgetary shortfall by pursuing smart, strategic, and sustainable savings rather than revenue increases,” she says. “The governor’s proposed budget is a blueprint for how we can continue to build a more secure and inclusive middle class in New Jersey.”
With her keynote address slated to focus on efforts currently underway to revitalize and reinvigorate New Jersey’s capital city, Muoio says the city of Trenton has a multitude of unique circumstances and struggles that stretch back decades. In September Murphy signed an executive order that, in part, re-commits state resources to Trenton.
Muoio has represented the city as a freeholder and legislator. She contends the state has indeed played a pivotal role in the city’s decline over the years due to urban blight and loss of population and tax ratables. “Trenton’s post-World War II decline as a booming industrial hub left the city largely dependent on the state financially.” She adds, “State, local, and county officials have been meeting regularly to chart a new course for Trenton and making efforts to restore the vibrancy of our capital city.”
Muoio is credited — along with others in the Murphy administration — with discovering and implementing new ways to boost general fund revenues and streams of income for the betterment of Trenton and other municipalities.
For example, she is a member of the Health Benefits Quality and Value Task Force, a consortium of administration officials, local government representatives, and policy experts dedicated to examining state health care policies. Muoio believes her office can decrease health insurance rates. State government rates decreased for active employees by about 0.6 percent and rates for Medicare retirees dropped nearly one-third over 2018 rates.
Muoio says she is optimistic about the prospects of success: “Working together with Mayor Gusciora, I am confident we can restore the vibrancy of our capital and secure its place as a leader in today’s innovative economy.”