No dorky endzone dance punctuated the inartful day of incubator feeding as Governor Phil Murphy this evening convened a horde of Democratic Party allies to stand in the camera frame while he flourished a pen, sported a grin, and satisfied his penchant for theater with a mere John Hancock where it counts.
Yes, this amounted to the final statehouse set-piece in a smog-glutted, dreary series of cloakroom set-pieces prefacing the inevitable: Murphy’s signature on the Fiscal Year 2024 Appropriations Act.
“This budget will make a difference for folks sitting around the kitchen table,” said the governor.
If the rhetoric didn’t exactly carry overtones of Bernard of Clairvaux, it nonetheless bore all the hallmarks of these times, chosen carefully to connect with simple souls fire-blanketed as “folks,” who don’t fight crusades (or command round tables) so much as sit around kitchen tables.
As reported earlier by this website:
Operating with a sense of deadline-shadowed urgency on the last day of the season, Assembly Democrats – and later Senate Democrats – this afternoon passed the $54.3 billion 2024 State Budget, running over the protests of minority Republicans, who bemoaned a lack of transparency, ballooned spending, and a bulging rainy-day fund, all cast in the name of “the good.”
Joined by Senate President Nick Scutari, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz, Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald, Senate Budget Chair Paul Sarlo, Assembly Budget Chair Eliana Pintor Marin, and Treasurer Elizabeth Muoio, Murphy accomplished the last movement of this season with aplomb if not the outright comic book grandeur that accompanies some of his events.
“A job well done,” said Scutari.
“Thanks for your great leadership,” Murphy put in.
Rendered all but lifeless by regional politics, South Jersey Democrats (Greenwald’s presence notwithstanding) tried to get some grumbling going in the shadows, about how “this would have NEVER happened with Steve [Sweeney] around,” but it felt hollow and bitter and, at last, unbuttressed by anything sustainable in this new world of New Jersey politics dominated by northern and Middlesex interests.
Getting choked up at one point, Greenwald gave the longest speech at the podium.
Maybe he knew it was over, his place on the leadership squad no longer politically tenable.
“That was very powerful, Lou,” Murphy said, before summoning Sarlo.
According to Brenda Flanagan of NJ Spotlight:
“The budget for the 2024 fiscal year, which starts July 1, doesn’t raise taxes, makes a full payment into state pension funds and increases aid to education. The new budget doubles the Earned Income Tax Credit to $1,000 for each eligible child. It also increases “Anchor” property-tax relief by $250 for homeowners and renters age 65 and over. The budget passed the Senate, 25 to 12. The Assembly approved the budget by 51 votes to 27, mostly along party lines.”
Routinely contentedly lowkey to the point of outright opaqueness, Coughlin spiked (his version!) of a budget football. “This is another year of expanding property tax relief,” said the speaker, “with cooperation of the governor and the senate president.”
Of course, the main addition on that particular point doesn’t kick in until 2026, which led to myriad howls of foul among the ranks of the GOP.
Coughlin carried on indomitably, even returning to the singular favor likewise favored by the governor as that distinguishing feature in the lives New Jersey’s common folk. “The list goes on and on of the things that reflect not just the priorities of this group of people but the people [sitting around their kitchen tables],” he said.
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