With Dems’ budget in hand, Christie makes ’em sweat

TRENTON – Notwithstanding their personal misgivings about the process cutting into imminent vacation plans and personal lives, some of the more conservative members of the Republican Legislature hoped Gov. Chris Christie Thursday morning decided on an absolute veto (AV) or conditional veto (CV) of the Democrats’ $30.6 billion budget.

Others quietly prayed he would simply red line the Democrats’ budget and not drag the Legislature through the hassle of more Trenton time and potentially a government shutdown.

Even though both the CV and AV options would require them to reconvene the Legislature, at least one wing of Republicans especially craved an absolute veto.

“The absolute veto would send a message to the Democrats to ‘never again send me a budget that isn’t based on numbers I’ve not certified,'” said a source close to the process. “That would be the right message.”

The absolute veto would require the Democratic majority to again go through the budget process. 

On Thursday morning, sources said the governor’s kitchen cabinet was still wrestling with what to do. One source said the governor’s governmental circle wanted a line item veto, while his political advisers told him to send the tougher veto message.

Another source said the governor’s entire inner circle was not specifically divided into camps but collectively and objectively weighing the options of his moves here.

One source favoring the line item said he/she saw the governor earlier in the day Wednesday – prior to the Democrats passing the budget – brandishing a red pen. The source interpreted this to mean the governor was telegraphing his line item intention.

But that was early.

Forced as time passed to consider the governor’s choice to absolutely override his party’s budget, one Democrat speaking on condition of anonymity said with this week’s Bloomberg Poll showing Christie’s numbers sagging, the governor won’t risk appearing uncompromising to a skeptical New Jersey public. Another source unaffilated with either party said the governor’s pattern, however, has been to seek the national GOP spotlight, and his rejection of the Democrats’ budget would catapult him even more majestically into the Fox News stratosphere.

The Democratic Party source said one Republican who does not want the governor to conditionally veto the budget is ironically the GOP caucus’s most conservative member, state Sen. Mike Doherty, (D-23), who would not vote for a redo that contains Constitutionally required Abbott School funding. If Christie forces the Legislature to craft a new budget, he would ultimately not be able to depend on Doherty’s vote if he wants to meet the Supreme Court order to fully fund the state’s poor urban schools.

The governor, of course, has easily been able to land Democrats in the past, but sources said a demoralized majority party may not be so willing to provide Democratic Party bodies without exacting some serious Christie concessons.

Faced with the Democrats’ $30.6 billion budget on Wednesday, Republicans opposed the majority and voted against the bill, which the GOP dismissed based on what they say is roughly $700 million in ill-defined revenues.

Patrick Murray, political scientist and pollster with Monmouth University, said the budget the Democrats presented is not as unreasonable as Republicans argued.

“There is an absolute danger to the governor if he appears uncompromising,” said Murray. “He has options and can modify the Democrats’ budget without shutting down government. Their budget is somewhat close to what he wanted and he has the ability to line item, which seems to be the safest, simplest option politically.”

But someone made a crack in the governor’s presence last night about weekend recreation and received a shrug in return. The suggestion was Christie wasn’t happy with the Democrats’ budget and didn’t accept the argument that government should fold up in the face of a beautiful July 4th weekend. 

He appeared unwilling, as usual, to go away quietly.

With Dems’ budget in hand, Christie makes ’em sweat