BUDGET IMPASSE: Murphy Takes in Portugal v. Spain Against Backdrop of Sweeney v. Guv.

NEWARK – Cristiano Ronaldo kicked the ball and in the same motion Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura sprang out of his chair and stalked the big TV screen at the front of the great room in the Portugal Club.

It didn’t go in that time.

But no matter, Portugal stayed ahead of Spain at the half, appeasing the local crowd here, including the man just subdued by Fontoura last week in the East Ward runoff election, Anthony Campos, dutifully attired in Team Portugal maroons in the back of the room.

Fontoura felt great.

Better presumably than Campos, and better arguably, than Governor Phil Murphy, who sat in the front row watching the game with the Prime Minister of Portugal. Running up against a deadline at the end of the month and a possible government shutdown, Murphy came out of two rounds of budget meetings today with Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) and Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-19) with no significant movement to report.

Mostly at issue is the millionaire’s tax Murphy wants.

Sweeney and Coughlin say no.

They have the votes.

Murphy is dug in on the other end.

In talks, sources in the legislative leadership camps say they presented budget options that manage to fund significant chunks of Murphy’s priorities but don’t revert to a millionaire’s tax. It’s fluid. But a source close to the talks said Sweeney’s initial proposal of a corporate tax is in play. In Sweeney’s budget version, the corporate tax essentially supplants Murphy’s millionaire’s tax. In possession of majorities in both houses and reluctant to pass his $37.4 billion budget (including $1.5 billion in new taxes),  sources close to legislative leadership said they will likely drop a budget on Murphy’s desk next Thursday.

“It’s his budget minus free community college,” a statehouse source said.

“Sweeney’s in the driver’s seat,” a source at the Portugal Club conceded to InsiderNJ.

In a Friday afternoon statement, the Governor acknowledged his resistance to Sweeney’s budget alternative.

“For the past eight years, Governor Christie cut irresponsible budget deals that weakened New Jersey’s economy and hurt our middle class, resulting in 11 credit downgrades,” Murphy said. “These budgets shortchanged permanent priorities like NJ TRANSIT and our public schools by resorting to short-term gimmicks. 

“I refuse to do that,” the Governor added. “When it came to making the hard choices to fix our problems my predecessor kicked the can down the road  – I won’t. New Jersey deserves a real budget that offers real solutions. I have a simple approach: Fix what’s broken and make sure that everyone is paying their fair share. New Jersey didn’t elect me to paper over problems with the same failed policies of the past.”

At the Portugal Club in the heavily Portuguese populated Ironbound, the budget impasse didn’t prevent opposing sides in a political war from reveling in the World Cup match.

Assembly Budget Committee Chair Eliana Pintor Marin (D-29) – who sides with Sweeney on the budget – sat with Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, who sat next to a brace of fellow soccer enthusiasts that included Phil Alagia, chief of staff to Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, and former Assemblyman Al Coutinho (D-29).


The World Cup game unfolded on the same afternoon that Sweeney faced reporters in the aftermath of his and Coughlin’s talks with the Governor.

In battle mode, the Senate President, Senate Budget Chairman Paul Sarlo and Senator M. Teresa Ruiz pledged to restore state support for an array of services and programs.

“These investments were cut out of the governor’s proposed budget,” said Sweeney. “They embody New Jersey values and if you cut them out, you change the shape of New Jersey. You make it less than it was. That’s not what we were elected to do. We should not be debating about our values, about what defines each of us as New Jersey residents.”

The budget restorations include funding for Court Appointed Special Advocates who work with abused and neglected children, Direct Support Professionals who aid those with physical and intellectual disabilities, Hispanic Women’s Resource Centers that provide counseling, health-care and job-training for women and families, cancer research, re-entry programs to reduce recidivism, autism and behavioral health care assistance, and help for the homeless.

Sweeney said that the Democratic Legislature will also insist on providing increased state aid to underfunded school districts, as it did last year to ensure that all of New Jersey’s public school students are provided the opportunity for a quality education. Increased school funding and reforms in the allocation of state aid are critical to ensure that New Jersey’s education system is fair and equitable.

A New Direction for New Jersey, a group allied with Murphy, aired this ad:

As for Portugal, they ended up scoring a 3-3 draw with Spain.



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