POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Senate president insists there’s ‘plenty of time’ to get a budget passed

BY Michael Aron, Chief Political Correspondent |

State budget negotiations appeared to break down last week amid persistent reports of acrimony between Senate President Steve Sweeney and Gov. Phil Murphy.

Sweeney today maintained his public posture that all is normal.

“Listen, it’s June 4, we got plenty of time to get a budget done. It’s just a matter of us getting in a room and sitting and talking and trying to work through the issues. No one gets 100 percent of anything they want, including me. So it’s part of a combination of having a conversation and we’ll have that.”

When NJTV News asked Sweeney if he and the governor were talking?

“Well we’re trying to talk with him this week. We requested a meeting with the governor to try to move the process on,” he said.

The governor had no public schedule today, and his spokesperson said he was meeting with individual legislators.

On Friday, Murphy ordered contingency plans for a state government shutdown July 1.

A few hours later his state treasurer, Elizabeth Maher Muoio, ordered cabinet officers and agency heads to freeze hiring and discretionary spending.

Muoio used to serve on the budget committee in the Assembly.

She published an op-ed in the Star Ledger this weekend saying if she were still in the Legislature she would vote for the Murphy budget, which contains tax increases.

“Nobody wants to have to raise taxes. The governor doesn’t want to have to raise taxes. I know having been an elected official for many years that’s a tough vote to make. I just wanted to assure my former colleagues in both parties, people in the state, that as the treasurer  — there is a real need right now for sustainable revenue sources,” said Muoio during an interview in her office Monday.

The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee met today, but not about the budget.

Committee chairman, Paul Sarlo downplayed the rift between his fellow Democrats Sweeney and Murphy.

“I know they may not see eye to eye on every topic or every subject. Quite frankly, they don’t have to be the best of friends, they don’t have to sit around the picnic table at a barbecue. But, they need to work together and they will work together for the betterment of our state,” he said.

Murphy wants $1.7 billion in new taxes, Sweeney calls that a last resort.

They appear to be at an impasse.

“I don’t think there’s really going to be a budget impasse. You know they’re talking. So I think, and hopefully we’re going to get it done by the end of the month,” said Republican Budget Officer, Sen. Anthony Bucco.

“I think there’s a good possibility we’ll have a few days off in July,” said Democratic State Senator, Sam Thompson.

Last year, a budget impasse shut down state government for three days. This year there are optimists and pessimists.

“I’m hopeful. I know it’s a great group of people down the street and I know many of them well and I know everybody wants what’s best for the state. So, I’m hopeful by the end of June we’ll have an agreement,” said Muoio.

Sarlo announced his committee will consider the budget on June 14.