They have a history of going head-to-head in urbane settings furnished by the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce whose finery prevents things from getting out of hand.
In this case, this morning, it was Monroe where Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) and Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. (R-21) squared off, literally posing for the cameras like Kovalev and Hopkins.
Their mutual disregard for each other is well documented.
Rather than focusing on past sagging relations between these two statewide players, the chamber made the state’s crumbling infrastructure and New Jersey’s quest for $2 billion annually in Transportation Trust Fund bucks the topic of discussion as guests sawed away at their meals.
“Nobody is coming here if we don’t invest in infrastructure,” said Sweeney. “We need to bring the business, and we need the infrastructure to move them.”
There was more posing than hell-bent-for-leather nose to nosing, at least according to the chamber’s take.
“The TTF is a multi-billion issue with a long-term solution that is necessary,’ Kean said.
“It’s going to cost something,” said Sweeney, who noted that the opening this week of a newly widened 35-mile stretch of the New Jersey Turnpike – designed to reduce traffic congestion along a notorious part of the highway – is a reason why investment is crucial. “The greatest thing that can happen right now is the opening of the (widened) Turnpike because people can see what we are paying for.”
Sweeney said the state needs to double transportation funding that goes to municipalities and counties. “They have three quarters of the roads, but their funding is cut year after year,” he said.
Kean said he wants to stimulate the economy by lowering the estate tax.
“Too many people are moving to Pennsylvania, a state that does not tax retirement accounts,” Kean said. “They are moving to Pennsylvania at the end of their careers and it’s not because of the weather in Pennsylvania.”
Sweeney and Kean agreed that the best way to control state taxes is to reduce the size of government.
“I think there should be less towns and more services provided by counties,” said Sweeney, long a proponent of shared services.