NJ Politics Digest: The Fraught Relationship of the State’s 2 Top Democrats

It's no secret that Gov. Phil Murphy and Senate President Steve Sweeney don't seem to be getting along.

Phil Murphy (left) and Steve Sweeney. Christian Hetrick for Observer

It’s no secret that Gov. Phil Murphy and Senate President Steve Sweeney don’t seem to be getting along.

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That was reinforced Thursday, when the governor called on the legislature to help him give residents a way to circumvent Republican changes to the federal tax code that he termed a “gut punch” to New Jersey taxpapers.

Sweeney’s reaction was personal, rather than political, with the longtime legislator saying he and his colleagues are already working on the plan and chiding the new governor for grandstanding.

Sweeney has also made it clear that he opposes Murphy’s plan for a millionaires tax and the governor’s ambitious progressive plans are going to have to contend with his concerns about the state’s already infamous tax burden.

In an NJ.com report examining the relationship, Democratic leaders say the friction is just a matter of the adjustments that come with a new administration. But political watchers warn that Murphy and Sweeney need to come to some sort of understanding if the governor is going to accomplish the goals he outlined during his campaign.

In The Record, columnist Charles Stile noted Sweeney’s support for shrinking the size of state government and his opposition to new taxes and asked, “Who needs Republican Chris Christie when you have Steve Sweeney roaming the halls as president of the Senate?”

Sweeney has said the loss of local tax deductions under the Trump tax plan requires a re-examination of state spending. Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick had an additional explanation for Sweeney’s fiscal concerns. With Democrats now firmly in control of state government, they don’t have the luxury of overpromising things that are fiscally difficult to deliver.

“Now the Democrats have to govern,” Bramnick told NJ.com. “Some of those policies they voted for in the past, it’s harder to vote for now. It’s pretty well known in politics that campaigning is a lot easier than governing.”

Quote of the Day: “At the end of the day, I think you have to look at the cost of government first before you start raising revenue,” — Senate President Steve Sweeney, on fiscal responsibility.

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NJ Politics Digest: The Fraught Relationship of the State’s 2 Top Democrats