TRENTON – The health benefits and pension reform deal struck by Gov. Chris Christie and Democratic leadership will pass out of the budget committee next Monday by a 7-5 vote, say sources, cut along the same regional and party lines that will be visible in larger dimensions once the bill makes the full floor.
Democratic Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-3), Assemblyman Lou Greenwald (D-6) and Assemblyman Albert Coutinho (D-29) will vote in the affirmative with the four Republicans on the committee, sources say.
When the reform measure heads to the full assembly (which includes a 2014 sunset provision), the same South Jersey/Essex County alliance will weld with Republican caucus members to make the bill happen, according to sources. But, “there is Norcross-Joe D. fatigue,” admitted a Democratic Party caucus member referring to the leaders who respectively wield power over the South Jersey Democratic contingent and Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-34) on yet another day when police, fire and CWA workers crammed West State Street.
“The double dipper in Essex County and the boss in South Jersey have more power than we have right now,” said Keith Dunn, a leader with the state Police Benevolent Association (PBA).
Without offering specific details, a source said union leadership last night walked away from a good deal presented by the front office and the Democrats. “When rank and file members find out what their leaders left on the table, they’re going to be ticked,” said the source.
But the political optics of Democrats at war with their own base, of which public sector employees form a critical part, may make it hard for Oliver to weather a leadership challenge in November and could continue to pressure cook state Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3).
“You screw up here today and we will screw you in November,” screamed an organizer before the chant of “Kill the bill” ripped through the crowd.
“She survives the summer but in November, it will be over,” said the source over the protests of Oliver’s allies, who insist it won’t happen, arguing that this health and pension benefits battle is simply one front and not indicative of the totality.