Dueling Press Conferences Highlight Divisions on TTF Deal

By David Cruz

For a group predicting such economic gloom and doom there was a loosey–goosey feel to this morning’s press conference held by opponents of the Assembly approved Transportation Trust Fund proposal. Although they’ve been here before, today they gathered to rail against the many sins they say are contained in a sales tax reduction, the centerpiece of the deal worked out this week with the governor.

“The idea that we can afford to eliminate $1.7 billion or essentially $17 billion, according to NJPP, over the course of 10 years any more than we could’ve afforded to eliminate $500 million is preposterous,” said New Jersey Working Families Director Analilia Mejia.

This loose coalition, most of whom didn’t like the Senate-backed TTF plan, say that terrible plan is preferable to this one. The one voice in the Assembly who says the sales tax plan is a non-start is John Wisniewski, who was critical of all the parties.

“One constant theme, in the problems we have in this building, is money and the management of money and we have to acknowledge that collectively we’re not very good at it,” he said.

But this late in the game, these Democrats seemed at a loss to explain what they’ll do if the Senate passes their bill and the governor vetoes it.

“Which is why we had enough Republicans for a veto override on that plan in the Senate. That was what’s known as making some kind of a practical agreement,” said Sen. Loretta Weinberg.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us. That’s the bottom line,” Sen. Ray Lesniak added.

After seeing this Gov. Christie called his own press conference to make his point about how Democrats want to have it both ways.

“The fact is you will always have naysayers who will say that you can’t cut taxes, you shouldn’t cut it, this is awful and terrible for the state. These are the same people though, ironically — apparently they did it this afternoon a little bit earlier — who are for a $3 billion tax increase on a pension amendment to require constitutionally the payment of a full cost and arrearages of the pension. So, they’re complaining about a $1.3 billion tax cut while they’re advocating for a $3 billion increase in spending by the state. That kind of hypocrisy is no surprise in Trenton but is one that needs to be pointed out,” Christie said.

This down to the wire scenario is not especially new to the Legislature. In fact, it’s a well-worn Trenton tradition. And come tomorrow, say sources, there will be a deal of some kind. To whose liking? Maybe nobody’s, but, one more time, the governor has found a way to exploit divisions between the Democratic leadership to move his agenda forward, and Democrats appear compliant if not eager to help him.