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Senate President Steve Sweeney. (Photo: Nikita Biryukov for the New Jersey Globe)

Sweeney, Coughlin: Murphy demanding, not negotiating

Governor’s office contests, wants legislators to budge on temporary revenue boosters

By Nikita Biryukov, June 18 2018 5:03 pm

Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin said on Monday that Gov. Phil Murphy isn’t negotiating a budget, he’s demanding that the legislature pass his.

“He’s already told us what he’s doing. He’s told us ‘take my budget, we’re leaving,’” Sweeney said at a press conference on Monday. “Well listen, he doesn’t know what’s in it yet. Budget negotiations would be nice if we could negotiate.”

The legislative leadership’s press conference came a few hours after Murphy held his own budget press conference where he threatened to veto the yet-unintroduced version of the budget the legislature plans to pass on Thursday.

Murphy’s office denied that the governor refused to negotiate, and during much of his earlier press conference, he framed the issue around what he saw as the unsustainability of the legislature’s budget, which presents a selective temporary 3% increase to the Corporation Business Tax – estimated to be worth roughly $805 million – that would fade out over two years.

That’s a contrast to Murphy’s version of the budget, which eschews temporary increases in favor of permanent hikes to the sales and millionaire taxes.

“I’m not saying you’d turn your back on money that landed in your lap. Let’s be smart about that, but putting actively, volitionally putting in place a revenue source that goes away in two years does not make any sense to me,” Murphy said. “Steve is largely why corporations are doing fine under the Trump administration, by the way, so are millionaires.”

The dueling press conferences came after budget negotiations hit another standstill after a set of meetings between legislative leadership and the governor’s office on Friday.

After those meetings, which appear to have pushed Coughlin to a more public role in budget negotiations, legislative leadership is banking that Murphy’s concerns will be assuaged once the yet-unreleased budget hits his desk, before or after making it through the legislature.

Coughlin and Sweeney said they would release the budget on Monday, but at time of writing, no budget has emerged from legislative Democrats’ backdoor meetings, and votes for budget measures won’t happen in committee until Tuesday.

“I think he’s going to look at that and ‘wow, the numbers I understood to be in there are not, are different,’” Coughlin said. “And, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was more willing to consider what we’ve done in a more favorable light.”

But Murphy’s office, hung up on the lack of permanent revenue boosters, doesn’t share that rosy prediction.

“Others can speak for themselves, this is no game,” Murphy said. “I got elected with a clear mandate to stop the games, and that’s why I’m here.”

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