TRENTON – Putting an exclamation point on their budget resistance, Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) and Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-19) had some bitter words in response to Governor Phil Murphy’s press conference from earlier this evening.
“This is not Goldman Sachs,” said Sweeney, referencing the Governor’s former employer. “We’re not going to be told what to do.”
Murphy earlier in his own press event kept likening Democratic leadership to the framework of bullying politics upheld by former Governor Chris Christie.
Sweeney insisted Murphy was the one acting like Christie.
“He can holler and scream and call us names. But it kind of sounds like the same old same old,” he said.
In the main, Sweeney and Coughlin both charged Murphy with failing to negotiate in good faith and remained opposed to his millionaire’s tax-based budget.
“We just didn’t want to tax people, we wanted to tax corporations,” said Sweeney, shortly after the senate signed off on his corporate business tax hike, a key foundation to his and Coughlin’s $36.5 billion budget alternative.
Coughlin said the Assembly was poised to also pass the budget; they did, with 46 Democrats.
The Assembly backed the corporate business tax by just one vote: 41-34.
“We’ve got nine days still,” the pair told reporters when asked about the possibility of a budget shutdown.
They said they’d negotiate with the Governor just about anywhere.
They mentioned the possibility of New Jersey being able to reap the benefits in this budget cycle from a Supreme Court ruling requiring online retailers to collect sales tax.
“Wherever he wants; probably not on a beach, I can tell you that,” cracked Coughlin, a reference to Governor Chris Christie’s infamous Island Beach Park camp out during last year’s budget shut down.
Murphy was not expected to veto the budget tonight.
But he did threaten earlier this week to veto the budget packaged by the legislative leadership team.
Sweeney lingered on what he said were the Governor’s intimidation tactics.
“He called all my members,” the Senate President said. “He called Republican members on the other side and said we’re willing to find compromise. Well, you know that, that’s really nice, but he can call me and the speaker. He leaked that he had offered a few things, and then denied leaking it. That was intended to make our members think they were making progress. But the reality is we weren’t making any progress. They denied our numbers.”
He said the Governor’s Office threatened to withhold municipal aid but would not comment on whether state Senator Brian P. Stack – an abstention on the Sweeney-backed budget – was one of those targets.
“We’ve been honorable; we do not leak things,” Sweeney added. “Every discussion we had ended up out in the press.
“I can tell you that many of my members were threatened,” the Senate President reiterated. “It reminds me of someone in the past. It’s time for him to negotiate with us.”