GOP critiques state budget

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TRENTON – Now the session is in gear, with the promise ofno surprise ending – it's a given the budget will ultimately pass in the hands of the majority Democrats – undercutting longterm suspense and compressingdrama into short-burst senatorial speeches.

State Sen. Kevin O'Toole (R-Cedar Grove) just did an Essex County Marc Antony impression, building sections of oratorical drama on top of one another,the impact of which Democrats tried toblunt by murmuring throughout.

Senate President Richard Codey (D-Roseland) finally intervened when O'Tooleamplified outrage over New Jersey taxes toinclude the banks on Wall Streetwith the unmistakable line: "they're stealing our money."

O'Toole agreed to yield at last.

Both sides began trading.

Speaking after O'Toole, veteran state Sen. Ronald Rice (D-Newark) just announced that he plans to support the budget. He'd been an holdout to the end.

Earlier in the evening, Senate Judiciary Chairman Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge) stood on the rostrum while Codey – ensconsed behind a bobblehead doll of himself – confered with Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester).

Pizza boxes piled high in the Senate Democrats' caucus room gave off that late night vibe, as did the cake – chewed apart – slices taken from below so the top sagged with chocolate icing.

State Sen. Marcia Karrow (R-Flemington) now took a crack at taking apart the budget. She's been a tough critic on the budget committee, and she didn't back down here.

"This whole budget's built on a house of cards," she exclaimed. "One shot gimmicks to balance the budget. …$2.2billion in federal stimulus dollars that could have been stretched over three years."

Like O'Toole earlier, she fastened Corzine to the belly-up condition of the banking industry, before fellow GOP budget committee members state Sen. Phil Haines (R-Pemberton), state Sen. Steve Oroho (R-Franklin), state Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R-Montville) and state Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-Red Bank)also blasted the budget.

GOP critiques state budget