TRENTON – State Sen. President Steve Sweeney, (D-3), of West Deptford, is glad the governor is restoring state aid to distressed cities, but he wondered why the Republican lawmakers didn’t restore the funding last week.
Oversight funding was a breaking point for Christie, which appropriated up to 1 percent of the aid awards to pay for the Department of Community Affairs oversight program in the Division of Local Government Services.
“That was an excuse rather than admitting he made a mistake,” Sweeney said. “It’s more money from these communities for his budget…when, easily, he could move things around (to pay for it).”
Sweeney said, “I’m actually happy today that the governor recognized (his mistake).”
“We had the item on the agenda for a vote,” he said of the veto override attempt sponsored by state Sen. Brian Stack, (D-33), mayor of Union City, one of the aid-receiving towns. Lack of Republican support torpedoed the override, with floor speeches from the GOP senators addressing the oversight, as well as a lack of funding in general for a program like this.
After the press conference, Sweeney said if he was a Republican senator, he’d be a “little unhappy” with the governor right now.
“How about picking up the phone, governor, and telling us, are we going right or left?” Sweeney said, doing his impression of a peeved GOP senator. Worse yet, Sweeney said, some Republican senators made what were considered by some as disparaging remarks, like state Sen. Gerry Cardinale, (R-39), of Demarest, who made reference to “these people” and “those people” referring to urban residents receiving the aid.
Christie said the Transitional Aid is coming from state surplus, which a Democratic operative said sideswipes Republicans who stood on arguments that the majority’s restorations were eating up state funds, especially surplus.
The lockstep GOP legislators are following so tightly behind Christie that, “If the governor told them, ‘go stand in the corner and don’t talk until I tell you to,’ they would do it,” Sweeney said.
State Sen. Kevin O’Toole, (R-40), of Cedar Grove, said Sweeney’s comments are “just plain stupid,” given the Republican legislators exact mimicry of Christie’s comments today: No money without oversight.
“It was the Democrats who gutted (the funding for oversight),” he said. “What are they afraid of? What was their rationale for cutting it?”
Since the Democrats never consulted with the Republicans on their final budget, there was no opportunity for the minority to express its position, he said.
With potential credit downgrades to towns that were expecting Transitional Aid, O’Toole said, “Obviously, the process, the road they went down was not that smart. Look where it got us?”