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Standoff at the NJ Statehouse Over 2020 Budget

Insider NJ editor Max Pizarro looks at the political standoff between the NJ Legislature and Gov. Phil Murphy over the proposed 2020 budget, which was passed by both the Assembly and Senate and is in Murphy's hands.

Days after the New Jersey Legislature repudiated a key feature of Governor Phil Murphy’s budget priorities, Trenton waited for the next development in a tense and political divisive atmosphere.

Recent developments in the presidential contest pointed to a chance this week for New Jersey Senator Cory Booker to find an opening in the debates, but the state capitol hummed with the greater likelihood of the governor’s continued collision with the legislature.

It was contentious.

Or rather, the mood approximated no end to the standoff.

High fives in the vicinity of the governor celebrated victories on the immediate periphery of the budget, all pertaining to an ongoing investigation of the Economic Development Authority’s (EDA) awarding of tax incentives that benefited businesses close to South Jersey Power Broker George Norcross III. Today, the legislative committee that seemed prepared to give a platform to Norcross to tell what he described as his “side of the story” did not move forward as originally scheduled.

The longer range goal of the governor and his allies seemed to hinge on Norcross fatally compromised.

But immediately, Murphy seemingly boxed in on the budget, allowed his political opponents to indulge their own running thumbs up commentaries on their side of the divide.

“If he line item vetoes the budget, he’s just going to [anger] people,” one source told InsiderNJ.

Eager to move beyond the acrimony, the source said the governor should secure a deal that includes more money for community colleges, increased gun fees and a $5 million threshold for a tax (same as he did last year), and fold. Otherwise, he will further alienate a legislature already irritated over chilled relations between members and the front office.

Prognosis, he admitted: grim.

A second source corroborated legislative leadership’s attitude about the budget right now.

Asked if a deal was at hand, the source, sympathetic to Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3), said no, and said he interpreted the governor’s statements about corrective action to mean line item veto.

Standing by the budget the legislature gave the governor last Thursday, the source expressed surprised that money for sexual assault prevention, NJ Transit, higher education, property tax relief for seniors, veterans, and extraordinary special education; money to help fund higher wages for social workers due to minimum wage increase, and additional money for the working poor is “pork.”

That’s what Murphy called it at a press conference on Friday.

“It’s so unclear what he will do, but we stand by our budget and are confident in the surplus,” the source noted.

A source on the side of the governor likewise did not offer speculation at this point about a secured deal prior to the deadline at the end of the month.

The legislature did what they wanted to do, the source said.

“Now the ball is in Phil’s court,” he noted.

“And he’ll do what he needs to do in consultation with our allies,” the source added.

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  • 1Prop

    Put up the white flag Phil. You have proven that you are not a leader of a governor, plus you don’t know what fights to pick. Fold before you get too far behind and get Gov. Tammy even madder at you!

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