NJ Politics Digest: Norcross Lashes Out at Murphy

George Norcross

George Norcross. (Photo: Observer file photo)

It’s not every day a top political power broker lashes out at a governor from his own party, but that’s exactly what George Norcross did—tearing into Gov. Phil Murphy in an interview with NJ.com.

In the interview, Norcross, one of the most powerful Democrats in the state, blasted a Murphy administration task force investigation into tax breaks awarded by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. Norcross contends that the investigation is an attempt to harm him and Senate President Steve Sweeney, a Norcross ally who has thwarted much of Murphy’s progressive agenda.

Norcross, who played a role in gaining tax incentives for companies he, family members and allies are involved in, has claimed that there was nothing illegal about those efforts, which he said brought much-needed development to Camden.

“We busted our asses to do everything we could to get companies to come to American’s most dangerous city and its poorest city. What the hell is wrong with that, as long as you comply with the law?” Norcross said, according to the report.

Murphy defended the task force investigation, saying it was formed following a “scathing audit” by state Comptroller Philip Degnan, originally appointed to the post by Republican Gov. Chris Christie.
But Norcross believes the task force was formed to target Murphy’s enemies. Christie has also blasted the panel as a “show trial commission” and attacked Murphy for politicizing the tax incentives program.

The fight among the top Democrats in the state is turning uglier at a critical time for Murphy. His efforts to legalize recreational marijuana use, a major campaign pledge, have stalled and he’ll need Sweeney’s aid convincing reluctant legislators to move the plan forward. The state must also adopt a new budget by July 1 or face a government shutdown. The governor and the senate president are already at loggerheads: Sweeney opposes Murphy’s calls for a millionaires’ tax while Murphy, who is closely allied with the state’s powerful public workers unions, is unwilling to answer Sweeney’s efforts to rein in state employee benefits to address New Jersey’s ongoing financial and affordability problems. The state narrowly avoided a shutdown last year in a standoff the eventually saw Murphy back down.

But the tax incentive issue poses peril for Norcross and his allies. Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, a Murphy appointee, has said he will investigate the incentive program.

Quote of the Day: “He thinks he’s the King of England and Mrs. thinks she’s the Queen of England, and they don’t have to answer to anybody. And they’ve gone out there recklessly, stupidly and incompetently time and time again.” — Democratic political boss George Norcross, in a scathing attack on fellow Democrat and political opponent Gov. Phil Murphy.

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