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Gov. Phil Murphy. Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe

In closing days, Murphy talks to media over legislative leaders

Still no meetings between governor, legislative leaders

By Nikita Biryukov, June 26 2019 12:25 pm

Gov. Phil is taking his side of the budget fight to the media instead of legislative leaders a handful of days out from the state’s budget deadline.

Murphy held his third budget press conference in as many days Wednesday, but he has not met with legislative leaders since they sent their budget to his desk last week.

This is fairly simple. We put our budget forward on March 6th. We’ve been open for business since March 6th,” Murphy said. “It is what now, June 26th? So that’s three-and-a-half or more months with lots of meetings, lots of back and forth, lots of laying out the rationale for a millionaire’s tax or community college opportunity grants. They have chosen to discharge their constitutional responsibility. I’m the governor. I have the budget, it’s now my responsibility to discharge my constitutional responsibility.”

Murphy has steadfastly declined to say how he’ll exercise that responsibility — at Wednesday’s event, reporters did not even bother to ask Murphy whether he’d veto the budget on his desk in any way — but he is expected to issue a line-item veto sometime between Friday and Sunday.

Lawmakers are expected to meet on Monday to concur with or override those vetoes.

It’s unlikely the governor will meet with legislative leaders before then. Earlier this week, his office said he would meet with his legislative counterparts if they asked. A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin on Monday told Politico that the speaker had no intention of asking.

There’s little question that there are enough votes for an override in the Senate. Lawmakers’ budget passed in that chamber with 31 votes, including seven from the chamber’s Republican members.

In the Senate, 27 votes are needed for an override, and there’s little question that Senate President Steve Sweeney can get there with half of the Republican caucus on his side.

The same isn’t true in the Assembly.

For one, sources have told the New Jersey Globe that Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, who hasn’t feuded with Murphy in the way Sweeney has, doesn’t share the senate president’s appetite for an override.

Lawmakers there passed their budget with 53 votes, one short of the 54 needed to override a veto.

Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera was not present at Thursday’s voting session. Coughlin and his majority leader, Lou Greenwald, said she would have backed the budget, though without a vote logged, it’s not clear which way she would have broken.

It’s also unclear how many lawmakers in the lower chamber would back away from a budget override.

Murphy isn’t without allies there.

It’s possible that lawmakers like Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, who appeared alongside Murphy at his Wednesday press conference on cuts to his tuition-free community college program in the legislature’s budget, would hesitate indefinitely on backing an override.

No Assembly Republicans voted to advance the legislative budget.

“I don’t accept the premise of this narrative that we have to do more to find common ground,” Murphy said. “The common ground I have is with the 9 million people who sent us here, and I know what they want.”

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