They wore pink ties.
When they faced each other in Trenton, that cracked the two of them up and seemed to lighten the mood.
They shared, apparently, the ultimate macho transcendence of daring to be taken for a metrosexual or even a-non-macho. Quasi machos dread pink. Only true alpha males can tread amid those serene color schemes that past generations deemed doomed.
So one might have thought that would be a good starting point for a conversation about the budget.
But, it really wasn’t to be, according to sources familiar with the 225 West State Street meeting earlier today between Governor Phil Murphy and Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) – and others, Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver and Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-19) among them.
They just don’t feel comfortable around each other, runs the common internal assessment of the Phil and Steve show.
“Someone needs to put a bottle of Jameson on a table and lock the two of them in a room for an hour,” a Democratic Party source said of Sweeney and Murphy, almost mournfully, lamenting the seemingly irreconcilably busted relationship between Governor and Senate President.
Sweeney didn’t like living with his perceived complicity of Murphy and the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA). Felt disrespected. Even now, it’s Coughlin who seems more budgeable on the budget, facing too the reality of a wriggling caucus room up for reelection next year.
Sweeney appears more willing to remain dug in; as Republicans begin to examine more avidly in off line conversations the prospects of joining a Sweeney-led override in the event the two sides can’t reach an agreement and the state plunges into a shutdown. At the very least, there’s increasing line-item override buzz. Legislative leadership also still seems mostly reluctant to choke down any version of a millionaire’s tax. A figure of $600 million in cuts emanated from Murphy World. The Governor keeps saying the Legislature’s budget falls short by $850 million. They kicked those figures around, with OLS and Treasury head to head and an internet tax and what it would yield – the Legislative leaders anticipate more than the Gov’s Office predictions – also getting the treatment.
Sources said Murphy was a gentleman in the meeting, and Sweeney was too, and there was receptivity and the ties, and other bodies around to distribute the weight.
“But then that letter,” one source groaned, incredulously, bothered that Murphy would release a formal, signed communique even before they had finished negotiating.
“We’re in the middle of this thing here; it’s not over,” the source fumed.
The deal, incidentally, underwhelmed.
It rubbed Sweeney the wrong way too, the whole thing, while Coughlin continued to try to play – somewhat – the role of Sancho Panza, gently preventing the Senate President from tilting at the human windmill of Murphy; even as both houses proclaimed nearly universal irritability over the processes of the Murphy Administration.
Still, if the budget was still in an unraveled state, they had those same knotted pink ties.