Gov. Phil Murphy and Senate President Steve Sweeney met with some of their youngest constituents Monday. Both are supporters of expanded pre-K.
They visited 3 and 4-year-olds at an elementary school in Sweeney’s hometown, West Deptford.
“This is an area of this year’s budget where I know the Senate president and I am in lockstep. Investing in pre-K is critical, not just to West Deptford, but in the entire state,” Murphy said.
Murphy’s budget proposal would add $68 million to the program that currently costs $738 million all told.
“A big chunk of it is to further fund the communities we began in January. And another chunk is to get to communities that we have not gotten to yet,” the governor said.
“This will separate New Jersey from other states. The investment in our children at earliest ages makes all the difference in the world. Children are better adjusted, they’re better problem solvers, they become better citizens,” Sweeney said.
In a Q&A with reporters, the most pressing issue was the embattled Schools Development Authority. Its CEO Lizette Delgado-Polanco is accused of nepotism and padding her resume. Murphy was asked if she still has his confidence.
“Even before this hit the press, this was something that we were investigating and we are continuing to do that. We take this very seriously, and if we have something to report I promise you we will let you know,” Murphy said.
Sweeney has suggested doing away with the SDA and merging it into the Economic Development Authority, or EDA.
“I think that’s on a short list of things we may not see the same way, but I think what we need to do is complete this process that we’ve started and then we’ll take that step,” Murphy said.
We asked Sweeney to say where he stands.
“I feel that we should eliminate the SDA, merge it into the EDA. It’s one of the few areas where, as the governor says, we disagree. You guys don’t focus on the things we actually do agree on because we do agree on a lot,” he said.
After Murphy left, a reporter asked Sweeney if he is surprised Delgado-Polanco still has her job.
“I’m shocked. I am absolutely shocked. It is so obvious what’s went on there. It is so obvious. What she did, how she did it, and then to actually think she’s actually going to come to the Legislature and we’re going to refinance that program with the way she’s handled it,” Sweeney said. “I didn’t go to college, so I never put on my resume that I went to college. When you look at what she’s done there and everything you’re hearing, an investigation shouldn’t take that long to figure out that that agency needs to go away and a new agency needs to be created.”
Murphy and Sweeney have learned how to look and sound unified, but there’s clearly a lot that divides them — the millionaire’s tax, pension and benefit reform, and the leadership at the Schools Development Authority, to name a few.