NJ lobbyists, business leaders and politicians network on ‘Walk to Washington’

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TRENTON -

Hundreds of New Jersey business leaders, lawmakers and lobbyists boarded a train Thursday morning for the annual schmooze-fest and pilgrimage to Washington D.C.

The state Chamber of Commerce's "Walk to Washington" event is more than eight decades old. It gives some of the state's most influential business leaders almost unfettered access to New Jersey's top elected officials.

“An enclosed environment where we can actually fellowship without getting angry with each other,” said state Sen. Ronald Rice. “Republicans, Democrats, independents. Everybody, black, white, Latino, male, female.”

More than 900 people were signed up to attend this year’s event, including business leaders, lobbyists and more who want to network with the state's politicians. Fifty state lawmakers and eight members of New Jersey's congressional delegation were in attendance.

The event started with the nearly four-hour train trip from Newark to Washington, followed by a dinner at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel and an address by Gov. Phil Murphy.

Murphy used the address to focus in on the promises he has made since his campaign.

“I was tagged last year by a Republican friend as a pro-growth progressive. I will take that tag,” Murphy said.

MORE: Watch Gov. Murphy's address.

Murphy pledged to reform New Jersey transit, boost workforce development and small businesses and offer free community college.

“The cost of college is a huge economic challenge to middle class families and students. Taking on this fight is vital to our economic health and to our future,” the governor said.

The delegation met also met with Murphy to discuss getting federal funding to build a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River.  They say that they hope they are making progress on the project.

Murphy will next address legislators at the state budget address in two weeks.

Lawmakers will return to New Jersey Friday.

The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.

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