Saturday, December 27, 2014

Gov Christie 'bully, punk,' snarls Dem boss on NJ budget cuts

Sen. Sweeney delivered unpopular cuts to union benefits - and says Gov. Christie betrayed him by cutting programs for the poor

Gov Christie 'bully, punk,' snarls Dem boss on NJ budget cuts

"Senate President Stephen Sweeney went to bed furious Thursday night after reviewing the governor’s line-item veto of the state budget... 'This is all about him being a bully and a punk,'" NJ's boss Democrat told the Star-Ledger here. “'I wanted to punch him in his head.'

"Sweeney had just risked his political neck to support the governor’s pension and health reform, and his reward was a slap across the face. The governor’s budget was a brusque rejection of every Democratic move, and Sweeney couldn’t even get an audience with the governor to discuss it.

“'You know who he reminds me of?'” Sweeney says. “'Mr. Potter from ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ the mean old bastard who screws everybody.'”... 

"The working alliance between these two men is the central political fact in New Jersey these days. If that changes, this brief and productive era of bipartisan cooperation is over.

“'Last night I couldn’t calm down,' Sweeney said. 'To prove a point to me – a guy who has stood side by side with him, and made tough decisions – for him to punish people to prove his political point? He’s just a rotten bastard to do what he did.'...

"The governor’s budget, he says, is full of vindictive cuts designed to punish Democrats, and anyone else who dared to defy him. And he is furious that the governor refused to talk to him during the final week... 'The property tax cap, the interest arbitration reform, the pension and health care reform – and the guy wouldn’t even talk to me?' Sweeney asks... The governor, Sweeney said, personally told him they would talk... 'I sat in my office all day like a nitwit, figuring we were going to talk,' Sweeney said...

"The governor cut the Senate and Assembly budgets, but not his own... When Democrats tried to restore money to a few favorite programs – including college scholarships for poor students, and legal aid for the needy – the governor not only rejected the additions, he added new cuts on top of that.

"He mowed down a series of Democratic add-ons, including $45 million in tax credits for the working poor, $9 million in health care for the working poor, $8 million for women’s health care, another $8 million in AIDS funding and $9 million in mental-health services.
But the governor added $150 million in school aid for the suburbs, including the wealthiest towns in the state. That is enough to restore all the cuts just listed.

“'Don’t be vindictive and punish innocent people. These people didn’t do anything to him. It’s like a bank robber taking hostages. And now he’s starting to shoot people,' Sweeney said... 'He was angry...  But do you hurt people because of that? Do you take $8 million in AIDS funding away? Legal services is drowning as it is, and you take away another $5 million? I’m just so angry that he hurt people like this to prove a point. He is a cruel man.' The governor refused to discuss this, as did his chief of staff, Richard Bagger, and his treasurer, Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff...

“'He’s mean-spirited,' Sweeney said in the Friday interview.

Joseph N. DiStefano
About this blog

PhillyDeals posts raw drafts and updates of Joseph N. DiStefano's columns and stories about Philly-area finance, investment, commercial real estate, tech, hiring and public spending, which he's been writing since 1989, mostly for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn, taught writing at St. Joe's, and has written the book Comcasted, more than a thousand columns, and thousands of articles, and raised six children with his wife, who is a saint.

Reach Joseph N. at JoeD@phillynews.com or 215 854 5194.

Joseph N. DiStefano
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