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Gov. Phil Murphy. (Photo by Kevin Sanders)

Murphy won’t name Senators he can get to back millionaire’s tax

Governor’s trademark proposal lacks support in both chambers

By Nikita Biryukov, June 03 2019 11:33 am

Gov. Phil Murphy wouldn’t name any senators past the four already supporting his proposal for a millionaire’s tax that he thinks he can get to back the plan.

“I won’t get into the names. You and I have talked about lists and names before, and I appreciate your coming at it so artfully as you usually do, so I give you credit for that,” Murphy said at a press conference Monday morning. “We’re in conversations across the board. We deal with the legislature morning noon and night. This notion that we don’t find common ground and ways to work with them — there’s no way that I would have signed 290 bills, as I stand here.”

The millionaire’s tax that Murphy is seeking is likely to prove as big a roadblock in this year’s budget negotiations as it was in last year’s.

In the upper chamber, only State Sens. Brian Stack (D-Union City), Shirley Turner (D-Lawrence), Ronald Rice (D-Newark) and former Gov. Richard Codey (D-Roseland) have signed on to back the plan so far.

That mean’s the governor is still short 17 of the votes needed to meet the 21-vote threshold required to pass legislation in the Senate.

Legislative observers believe the governor can convince State Sens. Nick Sacco (D-North Bergen) and Nellie Pou (D-North Haledon) to sign onto the measure, but even with them on his side, Murphy would be 15 votes short.

Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin said they would oppose a millionaire’s tax in this year’s budget negotiations as early as last July, and they’ve not budged from that position since.

In the lower chamber, Assembly members Raj Mukherji (D-Jersey City), Annette Chapparro (D-Hoboken), John McKeon (D-West Orange), Mila Jasey (D-South Orange), Ralph Caputo (D-Nutley), Britnee Timberlake (D-East Orange), Benjie Wimberly (D-Paterson), Gary Schaer (D-Passaic) and Assembly Majority Conference Leader Shavonda Sumter (D-Paterson) have signed on to back the proposal.

Sources have told the New Jersey Globe that they believe the governor can secure as many as five more votes in the legislature’s lower chamber, but that would still leave the governor well short of the 41 votes needed to pass legislation there.

Though the Senate has typically hosted the majority of the roadblocks faced by Murphy’s policy priorities, it’s possible the Assembly will prove to be the more difficult chamber this time around.

All 80 of the state’s Assembly seats are up for election this year, and it’s unlikely the speaker will have his members vote on for a tax increase with their seats on the line, though a shutdown over a millionaire’s tax could also harm those members.

Murphy said he remained optimistic on the prospect of the state avoiding a shutdown that would close state parks and beaches in July, but Sweeney last week was already laying the blame for a possible shutdown at Murphy’s feet.

But, there are still 27 days until the budget deadline. In politics, that’s an eternity.

“We’re talking to senators and members of the Assembly constantly,” Murphy said. “So I won’t get into names, but we’re in conversations across the board.”

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