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Gov. Phil Murphy. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe)

Murphy can’t recall if Oliver’s Economic Opportunity Act vote was vetted

Lt. Governor was Speaker during passage of controversial tax incentives

By Nikita Biryukov, August 15 2019 1:23 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy said he did not recall whether Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver’s vote on the 2013 bill that enabled the tax incentives at the center of his feud with Senate President Steve Sweeney came up when Oliver was vetted to be his running mate.

“I honestly can’t recall,” Murphy said. “I thought she put out a very strong statement last week.”

Last week, Politico New Jersey reported a provision favoring one proposal for a Camden supermarket over another was added to the Economic Opportunity Act by Kevin Sheehan, an attorney at the firm Parker McCay, which is headed by Philip Norcross, the brother of South Jersey powerbroker George Norcross.

Sweeney on Tuesday called the story “largely inaccurate.”

“It is disappointing that the Politico story painted an inaccurate picture of what happened, but it is unacceptable that activists and vested interests are simply saying things that are untrue.  We hope and expect that will stop now.”

Camden was, and still remains, a food desert where some residents must travel an hour or more to buy groceries.

Oliver, who was then Assembly Speaker, last week said she was not aware of the supermarket provision provision, though she voted to advance the bill, which passed both chambers and was signed into law without much trouble.  As the presiding officer, Oliver consented to the bill being amended before she voted to pass it.

“As Assembly Speaker, I was unaware that a provision of this bill was being tailored to block a proposed grocery store in Camden, and I would absolutely not have supported it had I known,” she said. “We must do right by enacting a new program of economic incentives that truly has the betterment of entire communities, and not just a few hand-picked folks, as its central focus.”

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