Phil Murphy has been using sports analogies all week – how many times did he say he won the election by “two touchdowns?” – so he should fully understand the obvious question.
Not surprisingly, as a smiling Murphy appeared with Senate President Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Coughlin and various other luminaries Saturday night, all played down the notion that anybody won.
Fair enough. No one is going to gloat. At least not publicly.
A more telling question perhaps was who lost?
And in truth, neither the governor nor Legislature lost.
And that means the Democratic Party did not lose.
Liberals throughout the state should be breathing a sigh of relief. A government shutdown in a state run totally by Democrats would have made the party look dysfunctional at best and grossly incompetent at worst.
With the midterm election getting closer every day, the last thing Democrats needed was to be seen as incapable of governing.
I know. We are mixing state and federal elections. But many voters – those who do not live and breathe politics – do not distinguish between the two. Make no mistake, a shutdown would have hurt all Democrats in New Jersey.
Now that issue is off the table.
Republicans, of course, will try very hard to keep it alive.
Throughout the week, the Jay Webber congressional campaign in District 11 has been sending out releases accusing Democratic opponent Mikie Sherrill of supporting every tax increase proposal surfacing in Trenton.
You can expect that to continue, given the fact the agreed upon budget does raise taxes. But it’s really hard to see that line of attack going very far.
The compromise budget would increase taxes on those making a minimum of $5 million a year.
At that level, we are talking about Wall Street bigwigs and professional athletes. How many average voters are going to feel sorry for them if they have to pay a bit more in state income taxes? Not many.
The governor opposed increasing the corporate business tax. But in the end, he agreed to a four-year plan that would impose an average surcharge of 2.5 percent annually.
Both Sweeney and Coughlin mentioned that corporations can afford to pay a bit more because of a windfall given them by the Trump administration. That’s a fair point. The new federal tax reform bill cut the corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent.
The compromise also killed the governor’s idea to raise the sales tax back to 7 percent. That takes another GOP campaign point off the table.
So in the end, insiders may debate who outmaneuvered who. After all, the governor was against the corporate business tax hike and he wanted the millionaires’ tax to kick in at $1 million. He lost both of those proposals, in addition to his plan to hike the sales tax.
Still, in the final analysis, the budget meets a lot of the objectives Murphy ran on last year – increased aid for NJ Transit, a greater contribution into the state pension system and a revamped school funding plan.
The public may not see all of those things immediately, but it also will not see a state government shutdown because of a failure by politicians.
And that’s a good thing even if we are deprived of the possibility of seeing this governor relaxing on a closed beach.