By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent
Every year, the four legislative leaders participate in a panel discussion at the League of Municipalities conference. This year’s offered an opportunity to explore the six-month feud between Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senate Republican leader Tom Kean.
In the past, Sweeney said he was angry at Kean and said he couldn’t work with him. When asked what he would say now, Sweeney said, “I didn’t say that I said I don’t know if he can work with me.”
“I love Steve’s ventriloquism here, going into me to talk about whether I can work with an individual,” Kean said.
Thirteen days ago, Kean withstood a challenge to his leadership position from fellow Republican Kevin O’Toole, who had the backing of Gov. Chris Christie. O’Toole and Christie lost 10 to 6.
The focus of the discussion was priorities. All agreed on job creation, but not on whether an income tax cut, as the governor wants, would help.
“He didn’t like our ideas. He needs to give us his, and it can’t just be a tax cut, tax cut. We don’t have the money to fund government now,” Sweeney said.
Assembly minority leader Jon Bramnick warned against a new push for spending.
“Now people think we’re going in the right direction, they’re much more optimistic about the state so be very careful not fall back into the history of this state, which was to fund everything, say yes to everything,” Bramnick said.
Outgoing Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver said in her final eight weeks as leader she’d like to address open space funding and the foreclosure crisis, as well as college affordability.
“What we won’t get accomplished in the next two months that I hope to see as a priority from legislative leaders in both of our chambers, is the state’s commitment to the appropriation of more money for higher education in New Jersey,” Oliver said.
“If you’re focusing on higher education affordability, job creation and property tax reduction, then you have grandparents who are living within miles of their grandkids, you don’t have one generation in Arizona and another generation in North Carolina,” Kean said.
Politics and policy are in the air here, as at every League of Municipalities conference. Trenton’s familiar faces are in abundance. Tomorrow, Lieutenant Gov. Kim Guadagno and Sweeney deliver the traditional luncheon speeches in a slot normally reserved for the governor.