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New Jersey State Senate. Photo by Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe

Budget deal sent to Murphy’s desk

Vitale concerned about effect of health insurers

By Nikita Biryukov, July 01 2018 8:00 pm

Almost 24 hours after lawmakers announced a budget deal yesterday evening, legislators have pushed through all the bills needed to make the first budget passed under Gov. Phil Murphy work.

Though legislators in both chambers were called into Trenton at 7 AM for caucus meetings with voting sessions scheduled an hour later as part of the deal made with Murphy, technical errors in a conditional veto of the corporate business tax bill delayed votes by more than five hours.

Language inserted into the bill as part of the combined reporting provision lawmakers agreed to on Saturday had some issues, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin said.

In particular, they were concerned that the provision could impact health insurance companies it was not meant to, prompting Sen. Joe Vitale to speak to the bill’s legislative intent on the record.

“There’s still a little bit of vagueness that we’re concerned with about health insurance companies,” Sweeney said. “You heard Sen. Vitale’s statement. We feel strongly that it’s not going to happen, but we’re putting on the record we had some concerns.”

Sweeney conceded that there might be need down the line for a cleanup bill should the measure passed today have some issues.

It’s not clear when Murphy, who spent the day swearing in several of the state’s mayors will sign the bills making up the budget package.

His busy day might have contributed to the delays, as staffs from both camps had to physically run paper copies of bills from the statehouse to 225 West State St.

Coughlin, who said he wasn’t aware that was happening and did not offer an explanation of the strange practice.

Sweeney, didn’t offer much of an explanation, though he did move to

“Listen, it just worked out that way,” Sweeney said. “Don’t read anything into it. You can, but it was nothing. It really wasn’t. They were down there. We had a voting session. Our members were here. It’s pretty hard for our staffs to be – there’s questions on a lot of stuff we do. There’s nothing personal.”

Though, Sweeney did say that ongoing statehouse renovations impeded the process. The governor’s office is in the portion of the statehouse being renovated.

While votes for the budget package in the Senate were unified, with at most one present Democrat not casting a vote for each individual budget bill, some Assembly members facing potentially competitive races were given a pass on voting for tax increases. The bill passed the lower chamber 41 to 23.

Assemblywomen Joann Downey and Lisa Swain voted against the bill, as did Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo, Roy Freiman, Andrew Zwicker, John Armato, Bob Andrzejczak, Bruce Land, Eric Houghtaling and Christopher Tully.

Assemblyman Ralph Caputo and Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker were not present for today’s votes, and Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora, still an assemblyman in the day’s early hours, left the legislature at noon to assume his new post.

State Sen. Ronald Rice was also absent during today’s session.

Though legislative leaders took pains to fight against tax increases that could directly impact most New Jersey residents – like the sales tax hike initially sought by Murphy – tax hikes are still an easy attack vector for Republicans in 2019, and Democratic legislators would prefer not to take any chances.

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One thought on “Budget deal sent to Murphy’s desk

  1. Another pug ugly mug in the rogues’ gallery of incompetents, idiots, and fools that currently infest politics. Just when you think we had enough crackpots Ronald Rice shows up. He and Sessions really put the pot in crackpot. This guy needs to get his head out of the gutter and the voters need to get him out of office.

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