TRENTON – What started yesterday as garbage time ended with a triumphal march for a bill authored by state Senator Joe Vitale (D-19).
Sources tell InsiderNJ that Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) right now has the votes to pass the Horizon restructuring bill out of the full senate on Thursday.
Two sources say that Sweeney has 16 votes in his caucus and following discussions with Gov. Chris Christie, more senate Republicans are prepared to vote aye on the strength of school aid budget promises.
The budget passed in committee yesterday 11-1-1, with only state Senator Jen Beck (R-11) voting no and state Senator Jeff Van Drew (D-1) abstaining.
Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32) has already said he won’t post the bill, setting up a showdown between upper and lower house, even as Sweeney appears ready to stall on the state budget. The collision comes as South Jersey Democrats (led in Trenton by Sweeney)., Middlesex Democrats (led in part by Vitale, who authored the Horizon behest of Sweeney), and pockets of allies, stand poised to relieve Prieto of duty as leader of the lower house.
While none of the groups or individuals out of Trenton opposed to the Horizon deal have tied their views specifically to loyalty to Prieto and a commitment to see him stay as speaker, the lower house leader has considerable support on this issue, including a caucus that last week appeared stridently resistant.
“We strongly urge Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto to hold the line and not post this bill for consideration at this time,” Tom Bracken, head of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, today beseeched the sitting speaker. “The NJ Chamber realizes that by not passing this legislation there is the potential of a government shutdown. The shutdown will be temporary. The negative impact of this legislation will be permanent. It will cause businesses to shut down, jobs to be lost, significant economic distress and serve as a blow to our state’s reputation as ‘business-friendly.'”
Backed by the powerful Statehouse combo of Christie and South Jersey Democratic Party leader George Norcross III, Sweeney de-fuzed the intensity of opposition to Vitale’s Horizon bill with a Norcross-Christie-friendly committee in tandem with intense behind the scenes buttonholing.
Now it falls to a stripped down Prieto, already on his way to the guillotine as his would-be successor Assemblyman Craig Coughlin (D-19) moves in on Essex County amid rumors of Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin (D-29) succeeding Prieto ally Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-36) as budget chair, to try to stop his tormentors, who dovetail with anti-Horizon interests.