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U.S. Senator Bob Menendez. Photo by Nikita Biryukov for the New Jersey Globe.

Menendez willing to moderate Murphy, Norcross peace talks — if they want him to

Governor, kingmaker at odds over tax incentives, frozen spending

By Nikita Biryukov, July 15 2019 12:27 pm

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez said he was willing to help broker peace between two of New Jersey’s most powerful Democrats Monday, but only if they wanted him to.

“I have been involved both in politics and global matters on the question of negotiations for peace and other purposes, however, what I have found is at the end of the day, the only pathway to peace is when the parties actually desire it. Then, playing a role can be very positive and can achieve success,” Menendez said. “So, all that to say is that if there’s an indication that the parties actually want to find a pathway forward and if I can play a role in that regard, I’d be happy to do it.”

Gov. Phil Murphy and South Jersey powerbroker George Norcross are feuding over tax incentives administered by the Economic Development Authority.

Awards meted out by the agency are facing scrutiny by a task force convened by Murphy that Norcross and his allies have attempted to stymie through court challenges.

At its second public hearing, held in May, the task force examined irregularities in tax incentive applications filed by Norcross-connected firms, including Cooper Health System, where Norcross is chairman of the board, and Conner Strong & Buckelew, where the kingmaker is executive chairman.

Portions of that feud may have bled through to other parts of Trenton.

A budget spat between last month saw Murphy and Senate President Steve Sweeney, a childhood friend and close ally of Norcross, at each other’s throats.

That fight ended with Murphy issuing a line-item veto that cut $5 million from Cooper and impounding another $235 million, $27.4 million of which was due to go to Cooper.

The governor has said the Office of Management and Budget decided where to freeze spending and has denied political motivations behind the detained revenue.

Sweeney didn’t buy that, calling the freeze “overtly political.”

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