BUDGET IMPASSE: Sweeney and Coughlin Counterattack by Unveiling Budget

Democratic leadership from the NJ Assembly give a press conference after the chamber votes to approve the NJ 2020 budget.

TRENTON – In a Democrats versus Democrats perpetuation of statehouse mayhem, state Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-19) this afternoon counterpunched Governor Phil Murphy on the budget – the former taking a dig at Goldman Sachs – as the state ticks toward a deadline at the end of this month.

Complete with easels on stands and flanking U.S.A and N.J. flags, Sweeney and Coughlin doubled down on their opposition to the $37.4 billion budget as presented earlier this year by Murphy, objecting in the main to the Governor’s support for a millionaire’s tax, the crux of $1.5 billion in new taxes contained in Murphy’s budget.

And they presented their own version, which Coughlin said he hopes to set on the Governor’s desk next week.

The alternative – a little bigger than the Governor’s budget – swaps out the millionaire’s tax in favor of a corporate tax hike from nine to 12 percent, and scraps a free community college runway in favor of a scaled down pilot ($5 million as opposed to $50 million).

They will formally introduce it in committee today.

The legislative leaders’ push back came a few hours after the Governor vowed to veto any budget the lawmakers present to him as an alternative to his own budget.

“After 36 hearings, both houses are unified,” Sweeney told reporters at the Statehouse.

“We will not be bullied,” he added.

The Senate President noted that this is his ninth budget.

In that time he was “ever told to take a budget [as is],” he added.

That, Sweeney said, is what Murphy told him at last Friday’s meetings, which collapsed without compromise.  

Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-6), Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-28), Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-37) and Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson (D-15) joined the legislative leadership as Statehouse minders purred.

A seasoned independent veteran, Caputo, sources say, might have been more inclined to side with the Governor; and so to Huttle.

“The Trump tax cut gave a windfall to corporations – $2.9 billion – from the federal government,” Sweeney said, arguing against the millionaire’s tax favored by the Governor in favor of the corporate business tax modification in the legislative leadership’s proposed budget.

“I don’t have a problem at all taxing Goldman Sachs,” Sweeney added, an apparent dig at the Governor’s former employer.

Amid Statehouse buzz about Governor Chris Christie apparently talking on a train about having discussions with Sweeney about being involved in the budget process, the Senate President denied having any discussions with Christie about this budget.

“I don’t need the governor to help me with this,” the Senate Prez said.

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