LD11 Contextualized: The School Funding Heartbreak Hotel for Prieto/Houghtaling-Downey


The relationship between Speaker Vincent Prieto and freshman District 11 Assemblymembers Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey evaporated quickly over a major issue – school funding. The relationship wasn’t always that way. Houghtaling and Downey along with the Middlesex delegation were rumored to have supported Prieto in his Atlantic City battle with South Jersey.

That all changed on June 10th of 2016 – Senate President Steve Sweeney, who had long partnered with District 11 State Senator Jennifer Beck, dumped her and joined Houghtaling and Downey for a press conference on a new school funding bill. Prieto was irate and didn’t forget it. He brought the freshman Assemblymembers into his office during session and chastised them. Houghtaling and Downey stood strong in their partnership on Sweeney’s bill – a bill opposed by Prieto and the NJEA.

The relationship never recovered. They asked Prieto how they could work together on the two bills and meet in the middle. The Speaker’s response was simple – as long as you are on that bill, it’s dead on arrival. The relationship took a turn for the worse earlier this year when a new Senate Sponsor appeared on Prieto’s school-funding bill – Senator Jen Beck. Prieto could have had his Senator, Nick Sacco, be the Senate sponsor so naturally suspicions rose when battleground Beck appeared as the new sponsor.

Outside of pleasantries, the Speaker never met with or spoke with Houghtaling and Downey again – except this past week, when the freshman Assemblymembers called Prieto to notify him they will be signing onto a letter in support of Middlesex County Assemblyman Craig Coughlin for Speaker.
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