Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin today sharply criticized a dark-money non-profit group run by allies of Gov. Phil Murphy for an unsigned e-mail accusing Democrats of passing a “scam budget” that “screws working people in our state.”
Coughlin said the missive sent out by New Direction NJ was “unacceptable.”
“Let me be very clear: I am proud of the budget we passed last week. It reflects the great work of the Budget Committee, led by Chairwoman Pintor-Marin, and reflects our shared Democratic values,” Coughlin said in an e-mail to his colleagues. “I am proud we provided property tax relief for our most vulnerable residents, increased funding for New Jersey Transit, made a record pension payment and provided more than $1.4 billion in surplus funding. In fact, the Governor himself has agreed that our budget funds nearly all of his priorities.”
The comments come from a Democratic Speaker who rarely throws bombs, signaling that the New Direction NJ email has heightened the intra-party battle between Murphy and Democrats in the New Jersey Legislature.
“I have devoted my career to the ideals of the Democratic Party. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that a group of fellow Democrats would use such divisive language against other Democrats,” said Coughlin. “It is unacceptable. In all my years of public service, I have never seen this kind of rhetoric about a policy disagreement.”
Coughlin was highly critical of the New Direction NJ e-mail being unsigned.
“Clearly the author(s) did not have the courage to attach their names to a letter disparaging other Democrats,” Coughlin said. “I urge the Governor to hold those who did write it accountable.”
“I began my career, like many of you, at the local level. In my decades of serving our party, I have learned some valuable lessons. Leaders are judged by their ability to lead, and bring people together to get things done, not by dividing people,” said Coughlin. “I will continue to lead our chamber to the best of my ability, by listening to different opinions, taking various priorities into consideration and forging a path forward for the best of our state.
The speaker said he looks forward “to working with the Governor and the Senate to achieve that end, free of rhetoric seeking only to divide us, through theatrics that do nothing to advance our common goals.”