Statehouse Source: Conflicting Budget Narratives Puzzle the Will

As the legislature now awaits Governor Phil Murphy’s actions on the 2020 budget, a veteran statehouse source admitted to being confused about front office gamesmanship.

Lawmakers seem generally to believe that the governor will make minor line item cuts to the $38.7 billion budget they gave him last week. But the source confessed to Murphy’s seemingly working on a different frequency.

At a meeting of progressive leaders in his office on Monday, the governor’s staff* asked those present what they want to see in the budget. This, however, according to a source close to the meeting and representing the governor, was not exactly what happened. There was no solicitation of what should go in the budget.

The source nevertheless insisted that it was a stunning encounter with representatives of the state’s chief executive.

“Most people in the legislature think he’s going to blink, and then he’s there in that meeting, which was really a rah-rah exercise for his base,” the source said.

The lack of negotiations coupled with the governor’s staff rallying his core supporters left the source to conclude that Murphy is leading the state toward a shutdown over a disparity in his and the legislature’s budgets that include the governor’s millionaire’s tax and $300 million toward a rainy day fund.

“I think he’s going to shut it down, at least for a day or two,” the source said. “It’s been a week since the budget passed, and no negotiations.

“I think he’s going to try to cross the Atlantic after getting hit by an iceberg,” the source added.

The governor planned a budget announcement on Sunday.

*Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this post referred to the the governor’s presence at the Monday meeting, but Murphy was, in fact, not present. 

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