New Jersey Republicans are seizing on the findings released by a bipartisan fiscal panel last week that recommended cost-cutting changes to public pensions and school districts, including merging some of the latter, to attack their colleagues across the aisle.
Senate President Steve Sweeney has so far backed the panel’s findings, though he did so with a degree of reluctance. And despite some hiccups that saw the Gov. Phil Murphy’s office excluded from the panel – Murphy and Sweeney disagreed on whose fault that was – the governor indicated he was willing to look at the recommendations as well.
But, that’s not quite enough for Republican state chair Doug Steinhardt.
“New Jersey is teetering on the edge of a fiscal cliff. In large part, we are pushed there by Governor Murphy’s extreme, liberal agenda, and middle class families are holding on with their fingertips,” Steinhardt said in a statement Tuesday. “For anyone who doubts the gravity of New Jersey’s affordability crisis, a group of career Democrats lead by Senate President Steve Sweeney and Majority Leader Lou Greenwald now admit that we are at a breaking point. “
Steinhardt called for Murphy to fully back the measures recommended by the panel of subject-matter experts, even invoking Sky Blue FC, the soccer team owned by Murphy that drew fire to the governor over poor conditions faced by the players there.
He even renewed attacks over the state’s budget, which was passed roughly one and a half months ago.
While it’s not clear that Steinhardt’s attacks will do more than push Democrats in a direction they already know they have to go, it does score him easy political points with his base, though it doesn’t do him any favor with public-sector unions.
Don’t expect to see much hand-wringing from Steinhardt over the latter.
“Now, it’s gut check time. Statehouse Democrats need to channel their inner Republican and come forward to push through these fiscal reforms. They will be judged by what they do,” he said.