Chris Christie said this week that Phil Murphy should be making better use of the EDA to help struggling small businesses.
That prompted Murphy to fire back that Christie should shut up about the EDA, claiming that under his (Christie’s) tenure, the EDA was used as a “piggy bank” for special interests.
Raw partisan politics has been largely absent from Murphy’s regular pandemic briefings. We have even seen the governor say a lot of nice things about President Trump and the White House staff. But bipartisanship – even in a pandemic- apparently has its limits.
The EDA, or Economic Development Authority, is an ongoing source of friction between Christie and Murphy.
Christie considered the EDA instrumental in revitalizing depressed areas, most especially Camden.
But Murphy suspects that the EDA gave far too many tax breaks to the politically connected and put a committee together to investigate that. A report from that committee earlier this month pointed to a series of alleged improprieties.
With that in mind, Murphy was in no mood to accept Christie’s critical comments about how the EDA is now being used. However, the governor did say that during the pandemic, the EDA has approved about $100 million in loans to about 20,000 small businesses. His point was simple: the EDA under his watch is helping people.
Christie’s comments also included the observation that the Murphy Administration prioritizes public workers over small businesses. Nothing unique here. In general, Republicans are going to favor private businesses of any size over public employees. Democrats take the opposite approach.
Murphy responded to all this with a bit of disbelief. He asked rhetorically why anyone thinks it’s beneficial to lay off, or punish, public workers who he said are average New Jerseyans trying, and sometimes struggling, to make ends meet.
“Come on man, …. Give me a break,” he said at one point.
The former governor has not talked extensively about how Murphy is handling the pandemic, but when he has, he’s offered mild criticism. A few weeks ago, Christie told the Young Republicans in his home county of Morris that Murphy should have shut down and reopened the state sooner than he did. That was before COVID-19 began spiking in other states.
Curiously, all this began today with a compliment.
Christie’s comments on Tuesday were in conjunction with a non-profit the former governor and his wife, Mary Pat, have started to help small businesses. He says the group is called the New Jersey 30-Day Fund and that it has raised almost $800,000. He said grants have been approved for 120 businesses so far.
When this was brought up, Murphy applauded Christie and his wife for their volunteer effort.
“You know what,” he added. “I wish he would have stopped there, frankly.”
Again criticizing Christie’s EDA stewardship, Murphy said upon hearing the former governor’s remarks, he didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.