Extortion /ik-stawr-shuh/ noun 1) obtaining money or some other thing of value by the abuse of one’s office or authority 2) oppressive or illegal exaction, as of excessive price or interest.
(Cherry Hill) — It’s Budget Shutdown Season in NJ so there are at least 99 reasons why my blood pressure is sky-high. I’ll share as many as I can fit under my 1,000 word cap.
8 Dumb and Dumber, Jersey Style. NJ Governor Chris Christie and Senate President Steve Sweeney are a helluva team, yeah? Like the time they tried to fix NJ pension crisis. LOLz, right? Their attempt to extort $400,000,000 from Horizon, the state’s largest health insurer is the latest example of their unholy alliance. Simply put, when Christie and Sweeney team up, bad things happen to the rest of us.
You’re literally living the consequences of their nonsense each and every day until this gets resolved.
7. Sacrificial lamb. NJ Senate Health Committee chairman Joe Vitale put his neck on the line pushing Sweeney’s budget bill on a skeptical public. One wonders Sen. Vitale’s reaction when, after taking all that heat, he learned that Sweeney is ready to reverse course just as soon as the next Governor gets sworn in, no big deal.
“Listen, Phil Murphy (the likely next Governor) says he doesn’t support this,” Sweeney said. “I said that earlier: Phil Murphy wants this repealed, it’ll be repealed.”
And to further demonstrate his galling lack of self-awareness, Sweeney added this ironic nugget: “It’s Horizon banging its chest, and Christie, everyone’s going at each other with this. But the point is, this is egos.”
Of course passing this crappy budget remains a huge priority for Sweeney and his political sugar daddies. But reversing the hard bits after giving everyone else heartburn? No problem. Sorry, Joe! If you you ever doubted Senate Prez Steve Sweeney’s willingness to throw his foot soldiers under the bus, there you go.
There’s still time for a hero to emerge from this shutdown debacle. If that happens, my money’s on Sen. Vitale.
6. Loretta 2.0. A rebranded, machine-friendly Senator Loretta Weinberg is busy in Trenton (and on social) defending the Christie/Sweeney budget.
“It is really only Chris Christie and maybe a little bit of George Norcross who could turn Horizon into a paragon of virtue,” she quipped.
Hilarious, right? She’s right though. I mean, it’s easy to sympathize with anyone on the business end of a Christie/Sweeney/Norcross tantrum.
Sen. Weinberg has brazenly framed NJ’s budget debacle like Sweeney is looking out for those on the margins: domestic violence victims, survivors of rape, or homeless LGBT kids. But let’s be real, yeah? Sweeney is, first and foremost, looking out for his own with this Horizon shakedown. And he’s bending the rest of us over a barrel with a cruel choice: unless we agree to Gov. Christie’s demands, all those homeless kids and rape victims are thrown under the bus?!
More ominously TeamSweeney, with Weinberg as pitch woman, has forced the defenders of those vulnerable populations to pick sides. Either stand with us or lose all your funding. So when did Horizon become a paragon of virtue? Probably about the same time Senator Weinberg cozied up to The Machine.
5. Abstinence Only. Some voted yes. Some voted no. While others, especially the ones from down south, abstained from voting altogether. When did the practice of ducking tough choices become acceptable? These derelict assembly members can spin this till they’re blue in the face. Good bad or indifferent, when they abstain for any reason whatsoever, their constituents are left with no voice in Trenton.
4. Dear Team Sweeney/Christie,
I may be stoned, but I’m not stupid. So please stop talking to me like I was born yesterday. Oh and stop telling me this about transparency. Because I’m all about transparency despite the tacit implication to the contrary so patronizingly conveyed in your repeated reminders. Mostly, though stop talking to me about homeless kids, or battered wives like I don’t care about that too! Can’t I fight for those worthy causes and still be skeptical of the Christie/Sweeney budget package? Of course I can do both!
And I can do it without using our most vulnerable neighbors as political flypaper. Like you’re doing right now with this Shutdown.
3. MIA. Phil Murphy is a thoughtful, serious guy who wants to be the next Governor of NJ. He managed to avoid this year’s budget spectacle by jetting off to Israel. How convenient. As standard-bearer of NJ’s democratic party, his leadership might be useful right about now but we’ll never know. Because Murphy is half a world away doing what’s best for him and for his campaign.
Meanwhile, Murphy’s democratic party is imploding. And while I understand him wanting no parts of this shit-show, but he missed an opportunity to save the day. Or at least act like he cares about us.
2. MIA, part 2. Where’s NJ Democratic State Chairman John Currie? Where’s the NJ state party period? Notably absent that’s where. Not making waves. Not getting involved. Not showing leadership. While it’s disappointing, what can we realistically expect from a democrat state party that’s content with 15% voter turnout on election day?
1. Chris Christie 15% He takes every opportunity to remind us why he’s the most unpopular governor in NJ’s history. And boy was he on form last week!
First he tried to raid Horizon’s surplus to plug budget holes created by his own poor economic stewardship. Then he enlisted transactional-minded democrats (of whom there are many) to do his dirty work back home. Then, after plastering state buildings with taxpayer-funded propaganda posters passing the blame, he jetted off to his private beach house on a private island that was closed off to us (even though we pay for Christie’s enduring largesse.) While there he taunted NJ taxpayers that he’ll use his (very expensive tax-payer funded) helicopter as he pleased. And if we don’t like it, we should run for Governor.
There a word for someone like that, but i won’t bother. Chris Christie is way beyond shaming at this point. He doesn’t care and why should he? Especially with Sweeney & Weinberg working overtime to give Governor Christie political cover.
Jay Lassiter is a long-time political observer in NJ. He’s over it.