The big news of the day might come out of a meeting of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, where Gov. Phil Murphy’s controversial pick of a Connecticut official with a history of opposing building trades unions is on the agenda.
Labor leader Bill Mullen says that Murphy’s choice, Tim Sullivan, had opposed prevailing wage expansion while serving as Gov. Dan Malloy’s deputy commissioner of Economic and Community Development. Mullen thinks Sullivan conspired with the Connecticut Department of Labor to find loopholes around federal labor laws that require local prevailing wages on public works projects. That’s a deal-breaker for unions.
The Murphy administration believes they have the votes to ratify Sullivan, and that makes sense – they wouldn’t put the issue up for a vote if they thought they were going to lose. That allows some speculation that Murphy and Mullen have come to an agreement. If they have, it shows some breaking of the tension between Murphy and Senate President Steve Sweeney. Mullen, runs the state Building & Construction Trades Council, is a close Sweeney ally.
Still, Commissioner of Corrections Gary Lanigan sat through a chunk of a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting last week before being told his confirmation hearing would be postponed.
Bottom line is that Murphy has four votes in his pocket – the ones cast by members of his own cabinet – and only needs to pick off three more to get Sullivan ratified. He has a path to those votes, sources familiar with the EDA say, unless Mullen is planning to embarrass Murphy at the meeting. That’s not an impossible scenario.
If Sullivan is confirmed, it’s a big win for a new governor in a fight with one of the state’s most powerful labor leaders – and a loss for Mullen, who made a huge stink about this early on and then went away. But there’s an asterisk to this: since people don’t get to see how the sausage is made, it’s possible – maybe even likely – that Mullen walked away with an appropriately valued consolation prize.EDA Agenda