TRENTON – With a week left to defuse the bills-instead-of-bombs New Jersey version of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Governor Phil Murphy burnished the backing of numerous public sector union, faith leaders, and anti-gun groups as he tries to stare down the Statehouse tag team of Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) and Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-19).
But Murphy, flanked by LG Sheila Oliver and Treasurer Liz Muoio in a crowd packed out by Analilia Mejia of Working Families, Hetty Rosenstein of CWA, SEIU 32BJ and the League of Conservation Voters reps among others, had more than his same-party adversaries to contend with, even as Republicans cackled on the sidelines about Dems’ overall dysfunction.
All morning long, a tug of war raged within the Governor’s Office over whether he should line-item the Democratic legislature’s budget and wound-lick his way to a mild solution with the argument that the public doesn’t care about inside baseball; or stand up to the South Jersey-controlled legislative leadership in his own party and veto their budget outright to force a shutdown.
The Governor was expected to offer no specific Shermanesque statement about his veto plans today (there are no veto plans today) as he prepares for another late afternoon under-the-hood meeting with Sweeney, but his presser – multiple left-leaning backers occupying a platform with him – provided a Vinny-Prieto-in-the-Statehouse-Annex throwback visual as he plans to make the claim that the Legislature wants him to sign a budget that will realize $855 million less revenue than projected.
Coughlin earlier this afternoon scoffed at that assertion, arguing that the Office of Legislative Services (OLS) likes the legislature’s budget numbers.
“This budget marks a return to Chris Christie’s New Jersey,” Murphy said in his press conference as an insider cracked, “He has no legislators behind him.”
“Only treasury has access to the tax rolls and tax realities,” the Governor shot back, noting that he preferred not getting into a bashing of OLS, “but those are the facts.”
Pushing back against those insiders who mutter that he and his administration don’t communicate sufficiently with the legislature, the Governor said, “We talk to lawmakers all the time. I’ve spoken to legislators regularly in the five and a half months I’ve been here.
“I remain optimistic that we’re going to figure this out, but we need real sustainable revenues,” Murphy added.
From the beginning, the Governor objected to legislative leadership’s efforts to raise the corporate business tax to a level that would make New Jersey’s CBT the highest in the country. Today, he expressed his willingness to examine some kid of scaled down CBT option, in addition to reexaminations of the millionaire’s and sales taxes.
The following if the Governor’s Office Official Release on where the Administration Stands RIGHT NOW: