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Senate President Steve Sweeney. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe).

Sweeney jabs Murphy over vetoes

Senate president compares governor to Christie

By Nikita Biryukov, May 30 2019 4:57 pm

Senate President Steve Sweeney and Gov. Phil Murphy are headed towards yet another conflict. This time, it’s over the frequency with which the governor vetoes bills passed through the Democrat-controlled statehouse.

“I’ve never seen an administration where you’re seeing so much of this, and there’s no need for it, because you saw we agreed with a lot of the recommendations,” Sweeney said during a press gaggle Twitter. “If they’d given them to us in advance, we would’ve incorporated a lot of this stuff in advance or at least we would have had a conversation with him … People want to make an issue of me and Murphy, what about all the other members in this house that are voting for these bills? What about them?”

Murphy has kept pace with former Gov. Chris Christie on vetoes, Sweeney said. By this time in his term, Christie had vetoed — conditionally or absolutely — 66 bills.

Murphy has sent back or thrown out 65 bills that reached his desk, Sweeney said.

It’s worth noting that lawmakers have sent more bills to Murphy’s desk than they had to Christie’s, and the current governor has more frequently conditionally vetoed bills than vetoed them outright.

Those distinctions didn’t bear much weight for Sweeney.

“I have personally offered a few times that when bills are being dropped, you only can get a bill dropped or put on the floor during a quorum. I said, flag any bills of concern — tell us — we’ll slow up on those bills until you have a chance to review them,” Sweeney said. “This is not working the way the governor’s doing this. I’ve never seen anything like this.”

The senate president said he had extended the offer to hold bills the administration had problems with to Murphy chief of staff George Helmy and to his former chief of staff Pete Cammarano.

Though, even Sweeney admitted that solution isn’t one that would work in every case.

He said he would not have removed a passage from State Sen. Troy Singleton’s dark money disclosure bill that many viewed as having targeted Essex County Freeholder Director Brendan Gill, who ran Murphy’s 2017 gubernatorial campaign.

Gill serves as a consultant for New Direction New Jersey, a 501(c)(4) non-profit that’s been airing ads pushing for a millionaire’s tax. He previously acted as the group’s primary spokesperson.

“No, for one reason … We as legislators can’t serve as 501(c)(4) boards. We can’t do that. We’re not, as elected officials, to be coordinating and involved in 501(c)(4)s. Why is it fair for any elected official to be in charge of a super PAC that can turn at any enemy at any time they want?” Sweeney said when asked if he would have removed the so-called Gill amendment had the governor asked.

Murphy conditionally vetoed the bill, and lawmakers in the Senate are now considering a overriding the governor’s veto.

The matter didn’t come up for a vote on Thursday, and Singleton could not say when it would, if it would at all.

The millionaire’s tax Murphy’s seeking will likely fall at the center of this year’s budget fight.

Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin staunchly oppose the measure and have maintained they will not pass a budget that includes the tax.

Despite the feud, Sweeney said he’d still rather have Murphy in 225 West State St. than Christie, though Sweeney indicated that alone wasn’t ideal.

“I would rather have an administration that functions in a way that you don’t have all these vetoes and conditional vetoes because it’s not that hard,” he said.

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