Former Gov. Dick Codey criticized the Senate Select Committee on Economic Growth Strategies on Monday, likening it to President Donald Trump investigating Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller.
“This committee, it’s kind of like Trump investigating Mueller at the same time, but it needs to be straightened out,” Codey, a state senator, said. “We need to pull back, find out what was going on, who was involved, and I’d love to find out the person from the EDA who felt physically intimidated and who was the creep that was doing that, because that’s just outrageous.”
Mueller headed the investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian agents. That investigation also touched on possible obstruction of justice carried out or ordered by Trump.
His report released earlier this year ruled out collusion charges but made no determination on obstruction.
Codey’s comments came at a press conference on tax incentives meted out by the the Economic Development Authority.
Gov. Phil Murphy and legislative leaders are at odds over the programs, which an audit by state Comptroller Philip Degnan found lacked proper oversight.
A task force convened by Murphy to investigate abuses of the EDA’s tax incentives has turned up questionable applications submitted by firms with ties to South Jersey powerbroker George Norcross, a close ally of Senate President Steve Sweeney, as well as other issues related to firms elsewhere in the state.
The legislature is pushing a seven-month extension of the programs that Murphy has repeatedly pledged to outright veto, though it isn’t clear when he plans to do so.
Codey, a staunch Murphy ally, was one of two senators to vote against the extension, which passed the upper chamber 28-2. State Sen. Nia Gill was the other.
The extension bill was sent to his desk on Thursday. He has 45 days from that point to take action on that bill.
“The legislature sent me a shortsighted bill to extend these programs as-is, as if these shortcomings can be ignored,” Murphy said at the press conference. “To the surprise of absolutely no one, I will veto this bill, period, so this begs the question — very simple question — whose side are you on?
Sweeney on Friday announced the EGS committee would delay its first meeting, originally scheduled for Monday, until after legislators finished their work.
The state budget deadline is less than a week away, and lawmakers are no closer to a deal than they were last week, Murphy said.
According to a preliminary agenda obtained by the New Jersey Globe, the first hearing would be made up mostly of the troubled tax incentive programs’ proponents, including former State Sens. Ray Lesniak and Joe Kyrillos as well as representatives from trade boards and construction unions.
EDA CEO Tim Sullivan, a Murphy appointee, was also slated to testify.
The conflict over tax incentives essentially pits Murphy against the state’s most powerful citizen.
Norcross acts as a political patron to many South Jersey legislators, mostly Democrats, and has previously pumped millions of dollars into legislative races through the General Majority PAC.
“I want to congratulate him for having the onions to do what he’s doing and stand up, because I know what happens when you stand up,” Codey said, referring to Murphy.