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Gov. Phil Murphy. Photo by Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe

Murphy mum on veto as budget deadline nears.

Governor to meet with legislative leaders again today

By Nikita Biryukov, June 26 2018 11:46 am

Gov. Phil Murphy is letting the days wear on without following through on his promise of a veto for the budget the legislature passed last week.

Though he indicated Tuesday morning that a veto was still on the table, he’s remained cagey on when and in what form that veto might come.

“I would say all options, and I say that honestly, are on the table, sadly,” Murphy said at a morning press conference in Rutherford. “Until we break this crazed fever of kicking the can down the road, gimmicks, phantom revenues, phantom savings all options are on the table, and sadly, that includes shutting the state down, so I had a call this morning on that topic as well.”

Though Murphy and legislative leaders don’t view it this way, little time remains until the June 30 budget deadline passes. Leaders in the legislature are preparing to kick into high gear, and they’ve scheduled voting sessions in the Senate and Assembly Thursday, Friday and Saturday, as well as one on July 2.

It’s possible that Murphy is holding back a veto in order to keep tensions over the budget at their recent low.

The rhetoric surrounding budget negotiations has cooled somewhat since Thursday, when tempers in the feud between Murphy and legislative leaders Craig Coughlin and Steve Sweeney were at their highest.

Yesterday, the governor met with a number of Democratic leaders, not just the Assembly Speaker and Senate President. Sweeney on Monday indicated that the meeting had gone well, or if not well, had not ended in a heated exchange as previous meetings between the state’s top three Democrats have.

Murphy shared those sentiments.

“We had a good, I would say, professional and clinical meeting yesterday with a broad leadership from both chambers, largely trying to reconcile of opinion on sort of base numbers,” Murphy said, falling into step with Sweeney’s view of the meeting.

The group will have another such meeting today, Murphy said.

Still, it’s possible that negotiation’s will break down and Murphy will have to veto the spending bill on his desk. He could employ a line-item veto to cut $855 million in spending from the legislature’s budget, an option he indicated he might take during yesterday’s press conference.

Legislators would be able to override those vetoes one at a time, but such an override hasn’t occurred in recent memory, and line-item vetoes are almost always sustained, said Micah Rasmussen, director of Rider University’s Rebovich Institute.

That could allow Murphy to cut spending by targeting legislative priorities while keeping his own mostly intact. The move could avoid a government shutdown, but it won’t win Murphy many friends in the legislature.

“In that case, the tit-for-tat will continue to another day,” Rasmussen said. “But, it’s got to be preferable to the alternative of getting completely rolled and leaving the smell of blood in the water, unless he can somehow be the grand conciliator, and with this cast of characters, that’s a tall order.”

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