Allen joins Bateman as GOP yes votes on open space measure

TRENTON – Sen. Diane Allen this afternoon became only the second Republican to vote in favor of the open space/sales tax resolution, joining SCR160 co-sponsor Sen. Christopher Bateman.

That left the vote total at 15-7 in sponsors’ search for 24 votes.

She denied that the governor’s office had attempted to pressure her into casting a no vote. 

Democratic Sen. Bob Smith, another co-sponsor, said earlier today that the governor had exerted pressure over the weekend on Republicans not to support his proposed constitutional referendum.

But Allen said no one had tried to tell her how to vote.

She said that her Burlington County district includes towns heavily damaged by Superstorm Sandy. “This is Blue Acres funding,’’ Allen said of the measure that would provide funds to acquire habitually flood-prone properties.

“My district was hit hard by the storm,’’ she said.  “I always have supported open space bills.’’

Earlier today Senate President Steve Sweeney said he anticipated having 19 Democratic yes votes for the sales tax/open space resolution.  If he gets those 19 votes, then the two GOP votes brings the total to 21. That would still leave the measure short of the supermajority it needs since it is a proposed constitutional amendment.

And for that, Sweeney is holding Republican Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. responsible.

The board is open from 9 until 5 and as of 1 the vote total was 15-7, with several GOP yes votes in June for an earlier, different version of the proposal becoming no votes today.

“Minority Leader Kean has demonstrated to me that when he wants to he can control the votes of his party,’’ Sweeney said today.

Although Smith had blamed the governor’s office today for reaching out over the weekend and suppressing Republican votes, Sweeney said he does not know what the governor did; he holds Kean responsible.

Sweeney made reference to an incident earlier this year when Kean held up GOP votes on the Senate floor that Sweeney needed for a gun-control bill of his to be voted on.

Sweeney said today regarding Kean and the lack of GOP votes on SCR160 that it “is an enormous failure of leadership on his part.”

Five of the 24 Democratic senators are out of state or out of the country altogether.

Sweeney and Smith have said SCR160 is more conservative than its predecessor, SCR138, which passed the Senate 36-2.

That resolution would have set aside a fifth of a cent of every dollar subject to sales tax whereas the resolution up for vote today would set aside a set amount, $200 million.

Kean could not be reached immediately today for reaction to Sweeney and Smith’s comments. Allen joins Bateman as GOP yes votes on open space measure