NJ Politics Digest: Politicians Clash as Shutdown Looms

Lawmakers are no closer to coming up with a budget plan to avoid a government shutdown.

Gov. Phil Murphy.
Gov. Phil Murphy. Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

The month is more than half over, and it appears New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and lawmakers in his own party are no closer to coming up with a budget plan they can agree upon to avoid a July 1 government shutdown.

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Talk of a shutdown grew stronger Friday, when talks about the budget between Murphy, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin completely broke down, according to a report in NJ.com.

Murphy’s spending plan calls for more than $1.5 billion in new taxes, including a hike in the state sales tax, a tax on online purchases, taxes on ride- and home-sharing services, and a millionaires tax. The governor also wants to legalize recreational marijuana use and tax it. The money will be used to increase pension payments and school aid, assist NJ Transit, and implement new programs, such as state-provided pre-kindergarten services and free community college to low-income students.

But legislative leaders are opposing the sales tax hike and millionaires tax, fearing a backlash from tax-weary voters who already bear one of the highest tax burdens in the nation. Sweeney warns the millionaires tax would drive high-wage earners from the state, and has instead proposed a short-term plan to tax corporations—a plan Murphy rejects as a temporary solution to long-term problems.

After Friday’s failure to reach a compromise, Sweeney said the legislature would move forward with its own budget plan. If passed, Murphy would then have to decide whether or not to approve it.

Murphy contends that his election gives him a mandate from voters to fix state finances. But some political watchers say the Democrat’s election was more a reflection of voters’ strong feelings against former Republican Gov. Chris Christie than an embrace of Murphy’s progressive agenda. Murphy’s critics also complain that talk of the perilous state of New Jersey’s finances isn’t preventing the governor from seeking to institute and expand expensive programs, such as universal pre-kindergarten and his push to someday offer free community college to all.

If there is a shutdown, Murphy will be in the position of trying to sell voters on the need to raise taxes in a state where high taxes is a perennial complaint.

And the tax issue won’t go away in July, as it appears likely the state gas tax, which lawmakers hiked 23 cents per gallon in 2016, will be increased again in the fall to meet state funding needs.

Quote of the day: “Cordial meeting. But we are far apart.” – An unnamed government official on budget talks between Murphy and legislative leaders.

Lawmakers plan to send Murphy their own budget, as talks collapse again
Legislative leaders said Friday they plan to send Gov. Phil Murphy a budget by the end of next week—with or without the governor’s approval—an unexpected announcement that came after talks broke down earlier in the day between the governor’s office and top Democratic lawmakers.
Politico Read more

Murphy hunts for 14 votes to stop Coughlin
Governor Phil Murphy’s magic number is 14—that’s how many Assembly Democrats he needs to stop Speaker Craig Coughlin from passing his own budget next week if the two sides can’t reach an agreement before that. Democrats have a 54-26 majority in the lower house, and Coughlin needs 41 to pass a budget.
New Jersey Globe Read more

Murphy frustrates rank-and-file legislators
As the state heads toward a budget showdown and another government shutdown, there’s a new problem for Governor Phil Murphy: several sources said tonight that rank-and-file Democrats in the New Jersey State Assembly are becoming increasingly frustrated by Murphy’s unwillingness to negotiate a budget deal with the Legislature. A group of legislators who are not part of Speaker Craig Coughlin’s leadership team are saying that they feel that Murphy is disrespecting the Legislature by his refusal to negotiate.
New Jersey Globe Read more

‘Tax Us’ says millionaire to legislators who resist Murphy’s plan
Standing across the street from the State House yesterday, Franklin Lakes resident Eric Schoenberg had a message for legislative leaders who continue to resist Gov. Phil Murphy’s call to hike taxes on those who earn more than $1 million.
NJSpotlight Read more

Moran: Democratic leaders wage war on Murphy. We are all collateral damage.
During an appearance on Fox News Thursday, Senate President Steve Sweeney offered an unusually candid summary of what’s gone wrong during this year’s budget talks with Phil Murphy, the governor of his own party.
NJ.com Read more

New Jersey might not have enough money to pay the bills this summer
New Jersey has a cash flow problem. It has already caused the state Treasurer to order a hiring and spending freeze, and it could grind state services to a halt this summer if leaders don’t act soon.
The Record Read more

Will new state funding move the feds to chip in for Portal Bridge?
New Jersey has nearly doubled its financial commitment to replace a sticky rail bridge in the Meadowlands, but will it be enough to unlock the federal dollars needed to complete the project?
The Record Read more

NJ drug deaths continue to soar as national numbers decline
For the first time since the federal government declared the opioid crisis an epidemic in 2011, the number of U.S. overdose deaths is edging downward—despite unrelenting carnage in states such as New Jersey, according to new preliminary data.
Asbury Park Press Read more

Watchdog Group Takes Christie To Court Over Emails
When he left office, former Gov. Chris Christie designated all of his and his staff’s emails and other electronic records “privileged” or “confidential,” requiring review by him or his attorney before public release, contrary to New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act, a nonprofit organization is charging in a lawsuit.
NJSpotlight Read more

Want to buy a gun? Town officials just made that nearly impossible here
The all-Democratic governing body in Piscataway has unanimously approved an ordinance targeting weapons retailers—a move apparently without precedent in N.J.
NJ.com Read more

Republican Hugin runs away from Trump in bid to win Senate seat from Menendez
While Republican candidates across the country are proclaiming their fealty to President Donald Trump, New Jersey’s Bob Hugin is going against the grain.
NJ.com Read more

Hugin’s pro-choice stance leaves abortion opponents in a lurch
Bob Hugin’s coming out as a pro-choice Republican won’t do him any favors with more traditional Republican voting blocks.
New Jersey Globe Read more

Mulshine: Congressional candidate Seth Grossman backs the Donald and dislikes diversity
A lot of people are outraged that Republican Congressional candidate Seth Grossman was caught on camera saying that diversity is “a bunch of crap.”
NJ.com Read more

Webber, NRCC play good cop, bad cop on Sherrill pharma investments
Assemblyman Jay Webber and the National Republican Congressional (NRCC) committee aren’t following the same line on Mikie Sherrill’s investments in pharmaceutical companies.
New Jersey Globe Read more

N.J. residents can wait 2 years for Social Security disability hearings. Booker wants to know why.
After being seriously injured, Pete Palella sought disability benefits under Social Security since he couldn’t return to his job. Two years later, he’s still waiting for a final answer.
NJ.com Read more

New concern for N.J. immigrants: Is ICE targeting some legal residents for deportation?
A decade ago, Cloyd Edralin got in what he thought was a little trouble. The Filipino immigrant, who came to the U.S. legally 30 years ago, was pulled over with an air rifle, the kind that shoots pellets for hunting rabbits and squirrels, and a small amount of drugs in his car, police said.
NJ.com Read more

Cardinal Tobin urges U.S. bishops to organize visit to U.S.-Mexico border
Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark urged the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops this week to send representatives to the U.S.-Mexico border, where migrants are being separated from their children.
The Record Read more

NJ student refused to leave die-in at a congressman’s office. So, police arrested him
A high school student was arrested when he refused to leave Rep. Leonard Lance’s district office in Westfield after participating in an anti-gun “die-in” protest there this week.
Daily Record Read more

Phil Murphy made these 20 campaign promises to you. Here’s what he’s kept so far.
From legal marijuana to free community college to higher minimum wage to tighter gun laws, Gov. Phil Murphy made a slew of (sometimes lofty) promises to New Jerseyans as he ran for governor last year.
NJ.com Read more

Gov. Phil Murphy runs in Red Bank 5K
Gov. Phil Murphy joined more than 1,000 other runners Saturday morning participating in the Red Bank Classic 5K race.
Asbury Park Press Read more

Murphy Visits Newark for the Portugal Match. His Guest? Portugal’s Prime Minister.
It was barely past noon on Friday, and the Ironbound neighborhood in Newark was already a sea of red and white jerseys. Lines stretched down Ferry Street to get into Iberia, Mompou and other Portuguese restaurants. Red, green and gold garland draped across telephone poles. Portuguese songs blared from an open-air bar.
New York Times Read more

Scammers Are Spoofing NJ Police Phone Numbers, Demanding Money
State Police issued a warning about a phone scam in which the caller pretends to be with the police and demands payment for an arrest warrant.
NJ101.5 Read more

Clergy get crash course in the use of deadly force at 4-hour ‘police academy’
Hundreds of public safety officers in various Hudson County jurisdictions have trained on an expensive, high-tech simulator for crisis situations where seconds matter.
NJ.com Read more

1 dead and 20 injured after gunfire at New Jersey art festival
One gunman is dead and 20 people were injured, including four critically, in a shooting early Sunday at an all-night arts festival in Trenton, New Jersey, authorities said.
The Record Read more

Democratic chair fight over, talk turns to Fulop’s political future
“All guns are pointed at 280 Grove St.” That address is City Hall in Jersey City. And the message was sent by an operative for County Executive Tom DeGise to an ally of Mayor Steve Fulop this week, a source close to Fulop said on Friday.
NJ.com Read more

Effort begins to reverse council action on Polish statue
The City Council’s decision to relocate the Katyn monument from Exchange Place to the foot of York Street may not be final, despite the six-hour public hearing on Wednesday that saw council members face the ire of the Polish community until 2:30 a.m.
NJ.com Read more

NJ MVC Work Let Unqualified Drivers Get School Bus Licenses
A former Motor Vehicle Commission clerk was sentenced Friday to seven years in prison for a scheme in which he took tens of thousands of dollars in bribes from people seeking driving permits and licenses.
NJ101.5 Read more

Getting Lead Out of Water Means First Finding How It Gets In
Hoping to get a handle on the extent of the public’s exposure to lead, a legislative committee yesterday approved a package of bills aiming to map out where and how the contaminant poses a threat to residents.
NJSpotlight Read more

Historic home in Mount Laurel set for demolition
An historic home built here in 1838 has been termed “structurally deficient” and will be torn down, according to Mount Laurel Mayor Richard Van Noord.
Courier-Post Read more

Ocean City Passes Smoking Ban on Beach
Thinking of smoking on the beach in America’s greatest family resort? Think again.
NJ101.5 Read more

Rockaway Township mayor files suit to stop council’s ‘criminal’ probe into his actions
Tensions between Mayor Michael Dachisen and a council majority have escalated into legal action.
The Record Read more

Respected Figure in Long Branch Civic Life Found Dead With Friend at Home
A well-known community activist was found dead with a man he lived with in their home on Tuesday.
NJ101.5 Read more

Bergmann: Is sports betting a good bet for NJ?
Sports betting officially began in New Jersey Thursday with Gov. Phil Murphy plunking down $40 at Monmouth Park’s sports bar in the hopes it would eventually earn him $930.
Asbury Park Press Read more

NJ Politics Digest: Politicians Clash as Shutdown Looms