Today is Phil Murphy’s 57th day in office. The governor delivered his first budget address to a joint session of the Legislature and it’s clear he faces significant hurdles if he’s going to get the Senate and Assembly — Democrats control both chambers by wide margins — to back him up. Murphy doubled down on his campaign promises and his challenge now is to move his fellow Democrats into some sort of compromise both sides can live with. The stone-cold reaction of Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin was reminiscent of George W. Bush with Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi looking over his shoulders. (Frankly, at times Coughlin looked more like Hostage Chris Christie while Donald Trump was speaking.)
From the Assembly Democratic leadership, the best Murphy could do was a participation medal: “We listened to the governor’s budget with great interest and promise a thorough and thoughtful review of his proposals. As always, the priority of our caucus is to protect the interests of New Jersey’s families.” One good sign for Murphy: while Assembly Majority Conference Leader Shavonda Sumter was on the leadership statement, her pro-Murphy Twitter comments seemed to contradict Coughlin.
Democrat-on-Democrat budget wars have happened before — like Jon Corzine’s 2006 budget shutdown fight with then-Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts. Maybe that’s what happens when Goldman Sachs and South Jersey can’t get along.
(The New Jersey Globe will give Murphy a grade every day — either a check, a check plus, a check minus, or an incomplete. He’ll get a letter grade every week.)