POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Senate Judiciary Committee approves two Murphy Cabinet members

BY Michael Aron, Chief Political Correspondent |

Acting State Treasurer Elizabeth Muoio got off relatively easy Monday. Newly sworn-in Republican Sen. Kristen Corrado has been highly critical of Muoio in news releases. One from last Friday that said Muoio “must explain mishandled and missing money […] during her time as a freeholder.”

But in questioning, Muoio was ready for Corrado on a matter that dates back to 2002.

“Mercer County is one of five counties with a county executive form of government. So the financial statements and operating functions of the departments fall under the jurisdiction, not of the freeholders like in many counties, but fall under the jurisdiction of the county executive. The county executive is the one in charge of the finance office,” said Muoio.

“You said your expertise was working closely on the budget, but you weren’t aware of these gaps or mistakes back in 2002,” said Corrado.

“The audit for 2004 when I was in the freeholder board was an audit of the 2002 budget year, which was the year that Bob Prunetti was county executive, so it was a Republican administration. Basically, going through the audit was the way we found out what was happening with county expenditures,” said Muoio.

“You can’t say, ‘I didn’t know my budget,’ or, ‘It wasn’t my responsibility because we had a county executive at the time,'” Corrado said. “You voted on that budget, it’s your responsibility to know what’s in it. And if there’s discrepancies, it’s your responsibility to find out why.”

A State House veteran observed today that the opposition to Muoio was just Republicans showing they won’t roll over every time for the Democrats, and that it’s interesting they picked the newest senator to lead the charge.

Earlier, the committee took up the nomination of Lamont Repollet to be commissioner of education. He was superintendent of schools in Asbury Park and a high school principal in Carteret before that.

“As commissioner, I will move Gov. Murphy’s vision for a stronger and fairer New Jersey from concept to reality. My experience as an educator provides the perspective for knowledge and the real time skills needed for building a brighter future for all 1.4 million students in the state of New Jersey,” said Repollet.

Asked about inequities in the school funding formula, Repollet promised half a dozen times to modernize it.

When asked about school shootings, he said New Jersey had 800 active shooter drills in the past couple of years and would ramp that up more.

Former Sen. Ray Lesniak introduced him saying, “I commend Gov. Murphy for appointing, can you image that, to lead the Department of Education, an educator. We have someone who is an educator.”

Sen. Shirley Turner introduced Muoio.

“We all know the difficulties that we have in this state with budgeting. And we all know that whenever you put the checkbook in the hands of a woman, that checkbook is in the very best of hands,” said Turner.

Muoio was approved 10-0 with one abstention, Corrado. Repollet was approved unanimously.