Kean: Sweeney’s action an ‘abuse of power’

TRENTON – The rancor between the Senate party leaders worsens as the year draws to a close.

Minority Leader Sen. Tom Kean Jr. today blasted Senate President Steve Sweeney for cutting funds given to legislators.

The money, cut by $140,000, is used by lawmakers for office staff and constituent services. Each lawmaker receives $110,000. In addition, the Senate president oversees more funds that can be given out, usually to the Minority Leader who then distributes it as the leader sees fit.

But Kean blasted Sweeney today for not only reducing the funds, but altering who gets what. Kean had submitted a proposal for allocations of the traditional $330,000, but it was reduced to $188,000.

Relations between the two have been acrimonious for some time.  Sweeney chortled on election night when – despite Kean’s boasting – Republicans captured none of the Senate seats from Democrats that they had targeted, and Sweeney then said Kean would have some explaining to do to his party.

That led to an attempted GOP coup that would have replaced Kean as minority leader with Sen. Kevin O’Toole, but Kean rallied enough support among the 16 Republican senators to maintain his position.

The hissing match goes back farther, including an incident when Sweeney was angry earlier this year that Kean used a maneuver on the Senate floor to prevent one of Sweeney’s gun control bills from coming up for a vote that particular day.

Sweeney in retaliation pulled GOP-backed bills from committee agendas for a time, including one that would have helped with oversight and cleanup of a controversial landfill in a Republican district, Kean pointed out.

Now, as a result of the cut to district office funds, people will lose jobs, Kean said.

“It is yet another abuse of power,’’ Kean said.  “It is impacting their ability to serve constituents.  This has never been done before.” He said that five GOP senators who voted for a new minority leader received increases, while those who didn’t saw decreases. 

While clearly there has been a rift for some time between Kean and Sweeney, Kean said there is no rift among the GOP senators.

Kean raised the question of whether Sweeney may do something else, such as meddle with GOP committee assignments.

Kean said he first became aware of the situation with the funding late on Friday, and that Sweeney has resisted efforts to meet with him since the day after the election.

“He said he would not change the numbers,” Kean said. “This is unprecedented.”

Kean spoke with reporters around the time PolitickerNJ reported Kean sought to reward lawmakers who supported his effort to retain his leadership position and slap the legislator who attempted to oust him, according to his leadership allocation request.

Kean proposed slashing Sen. Kevin O’Toole’s (R-40) 2014 legislative funding by $15,000, according to the Senate minority leader’s funding allocation requests submitted to the Senate office and obtained by PolitickerNJ.

Kean: Sweeney’s action an ‘abuse of power’