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Murphy courts Coughlin

Governor apparently seeking to curry favor

By Nikita Biryukov

Gov. Phil Murphy tried to win a few points with Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin he could use in this month’s rather combative budget negotiations.

The governor appeared at the Middlesex County Democratic Organization’s reorganization meeting in New Brunswick Tuesday evening. In his speech there, which lasted a little more than seven minutes, he paid dues to the county’s Democratic leaders and leveled praise on his counterpart in the Assembly.

“I want to say something about Craig, who’s an extraordinary partner,” Murphy said. “We’re coming up on about five months together if I’m doing my math right, and I will tell you, relative to any expectation or prediction, we’ve gotten a lot done. Now, we have a lot more to go, we’re not spiking the football by any means.”

The praise comes at a critical time for Murphy and the states legislators, who’ve made little public progress on a budget due at the end of the month.

Murphy and Senate President Steve Sweeney have publicly brawled over provisions of the state’s budget. Murphy, a staunch progressive, has proposed a series of programs that could lead to tax increases, while Sweeney is fixed on what he sees as an equitable school funding plan and opposes tax increases.

Coughlin, so far, has stayed out of the fight publicly, avoiding making shutdown threats as Murphy and Sweeney did roughly two weeks ago.

Were he able to bring him over onto his side – publicly – Coughlin would make a powerful ally for a governor that has, as of yet, not found his footing on budget negotiations.

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