When Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-3) yesterday said publicly that Governor Phil Murphy “got off to a very bad start on a public discussion that I think could have been avoided,” in reference to the budget, he revealed the depth of disaffection between Murphy and the legislative leadership establishment nerved centered in South Jersey, according to a Trenton source.
Veteran lawmaker Burzichelli has slate mate connective tissue to Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3), who’s at war with Murphy. “Him openly criticizing a Democratic Governor like that, saying ‘he doesn’t talk to us,’ that’s Sweeney and [George] Norcross unleashing him,” said the GOP source.
Burzichelli said he disagrees with the characterization of collective or strategic front office resistance.
“There’s no coordinated plan to be disrespectful,” Burzichelli said. “It’s about this issue.”
Testifying yesterday to the Budget Committee on which Burzichelli sits, Murphy Treasurer Liz Muoio estimated $600 million in new spending initiatives as part of Murphy’s proposed $37.4 billion budget. Burzichelli has concerns about the allocation of school aid, which caused Sweeney to put on hold Murphy’s choice to head the Department of Education, a senate vote that had been scheduled for today but that Sweeney held. A Murphy ally noted that Sweeney just last month subbed for Sarlo on the Senate Judiciary Committee in registering an aye vote for Lamont Repollett.
Buzichelli wants to know more about how the administration finds $200 million for community colleges while backing a funding formula where the money is not following the child.
“The governor is generous with the new money he is allocating for public education – very welcome,” said the Paulsboro Assemblyman. “You would think people would be clamoring in this room to thank us for this number that’s being allocated. Instead, they came with pitchforks.”
Burzichelli again noted that his comments are about this specific issue.
But the undercurrents of irritability continue to run deep between between Murphy and Sweeney worlds.
“It’s bad,” a Republican source added of the deteriorated relationship between the Senate President and the Governor.
InsiderNJ asked what the problem was with the sitting Governor.
“He’ll call you and he’ll say ‘how you doing?’,” said the source. “But he doesn’t know anything.”
Then he has the added hang-up, the source added, of former Senate President Dick Codey (D-27) whispering in his ear. “And, I’m guessing, his wife,” the source added. “They’re telling him ‘you’re the governor.'”
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Murphy ally dismissed the analysis – especially the Tammy as Dragon Lady suggestion – as nonsense, noting that the First Lady spends her days working with advocacy groups.
But another Republican source gleefully digested the unfolding Sweeney-Murphy antagonism.
“It’s what you get when you have one-party rule,” he rejoiced.