Governor of New Jersey 1974-1982
Brendan Byrne served as the governor of New Jersey for eight years. He first won election in 1973, defeating Congressman Charles Sandman and took the oath of office on January 16, 1974. While Byrne faced numerous issues and challenges, his first term was dominated by his decision to address a growing budget deficit by successfully pushing to create the state’s first income tax.
In part due to the imposition of this new tax, Byrne was considered a such a long-shot for re-election in early 1977 that he was challenged by 10 fellow Democrats including a member of his own cabinet. Nevertheless, he went on to win the primary and then, despite being down in the polls by double-digit margins in September, to win the general election defeating former State Senator and Senate President Raymond Bateman. Constitutionally limited to serving two terms, Byrne left office on January 16, 1982, when Thomas H. Kean was sworn in as the state’s new governor.
While in office, Byrne tackled many major issues in addition to instituting the income tax, including protecting the Pinelands and opening legalized casino gambling in Atlantic City. In this section, we present information about Governor Byrne’s administration, as well as source material from his years in office.
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