POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Shutdown looks increasingly likely as top Democrats continue feuding

BY Brenda Flanagan, Senior Correspondent |

Another day, another disagreement for New Jersey’s top Democrats. Gov. Phil Murphy held a roundtable at St. Joseph’s Hospital on his administration’s effort to preserve Obamacare by creating a state-run health care exchange. But afterward he took time to snap back at Senate President Steve Sweeney for suggesting the governor would shut down state government if he didn’t get a budget with a boosted millionaire’s tax.

“I don’t want to let facts get in the way, 72% of the state supports it, including a majority of Republicans. It was passed five times and voted on five different occasions in the last administration. Nothing has changed except the governor,” Murphy said.

But neither Sweeney nor Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin support tax increases, and Sweeney is now in open rebellion. He complained the administration fails to work with lawmakers and instead vetoes too many bills, particularly the so-called dark money bill. It would name names and identify special interest donors who give more than $10,000 to political causes and candidates. Murphy’s conditional veto angered lawmakers who are now talking override.

“His comments that the bill was weak and unconstitutional were flat out wrong, and honestly, insulting,” Sweeney said Thursday. “At some point the Legislature has to say, ‘Hey, if you’re going to continue to do this then we’re going to start overriding.’”

Any override would be Trenton’s first veto override in more than 20 years. But Murphy pointed to Friday morning’s roundtable with lawmakers who’ve sponsored 14 health care exchange bills as a sign of cooperation. He said he’s signed more bills at this point in his tenure than former Gov. Chris Christie and vetoed fewer. He added that his conditional veto improved the “dark money” bill. As to the potential override?

“I have nothing new to add on that,” Murphy said.

Meanwhile, an ad promoting the millionaire’s tax increase — sponsored by a Murphy-affiliated dark money group called New Direction New Jersey — continues to circulate. New Direction won’t disclose its donors. Murphy unapologetically maintains close ties to the group and one known donor, the NJEA, according to documents provided to Politico.

“The last time I raised money, probably some weeks ago. And as a general matter I was aware of the NJEA support. I can’t recall when I became aware of it though,” Murphy said.

Sweeney and Coughlin have both disparaged Murphy’s participation in an ad from undisclosed donors, although they both benefit from similar groups. The budget deadline is June 30.