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

Sweeney, Murphy in different spots on budget

Sweeney says he’ll shut down government over school funding

By Nikita Biryukov, May 31 2018 2:08 pm

Budget negotiations don’t seem to be going as well as Gov. Phil Murphy thinks.

At a press conference announcing the filing of a new school funding bill on Monday, State Senate President Sweeney contradicted statements Murphy made on Tuesday about where in the process negotiations were.

Murphy said negotiations were entering the “sixth inning.” For Sweeney, it’s more like the second.

“Honestly, we’re not in the sixth inning. This is my ninth budget, so I know more than anyone right now, and we’re not in the sixth inning. We need to be there, and we need to talk more,” Sweeney said. “In fairness to the governor, it’s not all his fault we’re not there yet. I accept blame too. We need to get there, and we need to get there quickly.”

But that may provide little solace for the governor, who is facing relatively high stakes over his first budget, one that has thus far become something of a warette between New Jersey’s top Democrats.

School funding is an issue close to Sweeney’s heart. He shut the government down over the issue last year, and he’s indicated multiple times – including in plain speech today – that he’s willing to do so again.

But despite the threats, it seems budget negotiations are still making some headway, though not quite as much as the governor thinks.

“I think the governor is more optimistic than I am right now,” Sweeney said. “I think we’re getting a budget done. I really do think we’ll get a budget done on time. I can tell you, and I’ve said this before, if I don’t get school funding fixed – I shut government down last year because of it, I’m willing to do it again.”

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