By David Cruz
They call it the Walk to Washington because walking — from one end of the train to the other — is what you have to do to get the full effect. But you’d better be ready to, quite literally, press the flesh.
The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce annual event — this is the 77th edition, pushed back a few months by the February snowstorm — attracts hundreds of chamber members, business people and, of course, politicians.
A crowded train can make for strange political bedfellows, but the travelers on this train, both Democrats and Republicans, say that’s a good thing.
“Here I am sitting in close proximity to my Republican colleagues. It’s a low pressure kind of an event, so you really enjoy speaking with colleagues, particularly on the other side of the aisle,” said Sen. Robert Gordon.
“Probably the most important part of the government process are people getting together, outside of the Statehouse, to talk to each other as people,” said Assemblyman Jon Bramnick.
So what would you guess is the number one topic of conversation on this year’s Walk to Washington? I’ll give you a hint; it has something to do with this guy, who, incidentally, will be the keynote speaker at the annual chamber dinner tonight.
When asked if he had to pick the number one topic of conversation on this trip, Assemblyman John Wisniewski said, “Well, obviously, people have been talking about the George Washington Bridge.”
“We’ll probably talk about John Wizniewski’s committee a little bit,” Bramnick said.
“The number one topic of discussion is Bridgegate,” said Gordon.
When asked if anybody had been talking about the George Washington Bridge, Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto said, “I haven’t been asked that because we set up a committee and I’ve let them do their work, so that has not been a topic on my radar today.”
Well, it’s part of what we talked about for sure, especially the rumblings from some Republicans that they might just decide to boycott future sessions of the joint committee looking into the GWB lane closures because of what they say is Democratic bullying.
“I don’t think any of us wants to walk away from a committee, if the committee is actually a committee. If it’s a one person’s show, if this is Wizgate instead of Bridgegate, then there’s no purpose to us to actually be on it,” said Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi.
As for the other major topic of discussion, the battle over the arbitration cap, which was allowed to expire and which Gov. Chris Christie says is killing his budget. Prieto says he and the governor have sat down and a compromise is in the works.
“Well, the governor and I are talking and at this point in time we’re keeping those conversations private. Once we have something we can talk about, then we’ll let everybody know, but we are in conversation and looking to see what negotiating point we can come to,” Prieto said.
It’s likely the governor will bring up the arbitration cap when he speaks at the Chamber dinner tonight. As for the GWB? Probably not, since, you know, everybody down here will likely have arrived by train.