“Donald Trump is not the leader of the Republican Party in Trenton,” said Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick.
Call it part emancipation, part rebranding. Republican legislators on Thursday declared themselves independent of the president and his scorched earth approach to politics, as Bramnick kicked off his “Rally the Reasonable” statewide tour.
“I think the Republican Party in New Jersey needs to show that we’re reasonable, rational and we’re New Jersey Republicans, and that will take some time. And I think some of the statements that come out of Washington are not statements that anyone in my caucus would say. This has nothing to do with policy, but I think it’s important for us to show New Jersey who we are,” Bramnick said.
It’s a political stand that’s easier to take since Trump booster Chris Christie’s no longer titular head of the party in New Jersey. Republicans also reached out to Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy and asked how he plans to pay for his progressive agenda they estimated could cost $5 to 7 billion.
“I don’t think you can spend $5 to 7 billion in a $34 billion budget without raising taxes and fees substantially. So my concern is, if he’s going to raise taxes, and he’s going to put forward all these new programs, how’s he going pay for it? I haven’t seen the fiscally conservative side, yet. That’s what we’re looking for. We’re saying, ‘Okay, where are you cutting? What are you doing with reforms? Where’s the other side of the ledger?'” said Bramnick.
Murphy had recommended a millionaires’ tax, but Bramnick said there’s not one vote for it in his caucus. Meanwhile, the new governor has not pushed to renew the two percent arbitration cap Republicans want, nor specified any public pension and health care reforms, even as the state faces ballooning payments.
“If we don’t focus on the problems of New Jersey, we will not be able to move the ball forward. And it is critically important for us to move the ball forward, because at this stage there are more people looking to leave than come in,” said Assemblyman Anthony Bucco.
Assembly Republicans said Christie was good at saying “no” to additional spending. Bramnick plans to hold town halls across the state to solicit input on these issues. They called this day one of reaching across the aisle.
“When we get a very good piece of legislation, we look for bipartisan people to go on the legislation with us. So come to us, work with us. Let’s do this, and let’s do this for the taxpayers,” said Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz.
Republicans looking for answers from Murphy will probably have to wait until next month. That’s when he’s due to deliver his first budget message.