TRENTON – Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) pushes back his chair and heads for the door of the Senate Budget Committee chamber.
The committee just passed his 2.9% statutory cap along party lines. They gavel out here for a recess before addressing contentious issue number one: an already notorious package of supplemental budget bills.
Sweeney denies he extracted more concessions from Gov. Chris Christie in exchange for allowing Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean (R-Westfield) to replace state Sen. Michael Doherty (R-Washington Twp) on the budget committee.
A mountain man Republican, Doherty can’t back four supplemental budget bills, and Kean as a surrogate would enable the governor to speed the process. It’s a GOP improvisation they didn’t want to make, which underscores Doherty’s willingness to go dangerously off the reservation with just days before the budget goes to the full senate – even as it strengthens Democrats.
“There’s no deal,” says Sweeney. “There’s no horse trading. We know we have got to get the budget done. They told us they had 17 votes. Seventeen and 33 (GOP votes in the Assembly).”
Now that is in jeopardy.
“I have’t been saying they have 17 votes, they have,” says Sweeney, who does not anticipate offering another Democrat body int he event that the supplemental bills impede Republicans from voting aye on Christie’s core budget.
He doesn’t want to offer up another vote.
“Look, for the last eight years, he had to provide all the votes for the budget,” the senate president says. “Now, we’re providing votes (four Democrats to get to a 21-vote majority) for a budget we don’t like. They have a responsibility now, just as it was our responsibility to get the votes then.”