Lieutenant governor, Democratic senators battle

Lieutenant Gov. Kim Guadagno battled with two Democratic state senators Tuesday in a fiery exchange over whether the lieutenant governor should answer questions about the state budget.

Guadagno, the state's first lieutenant governor, was called before the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee in her other role, as secretary of state, to answer questions about that department's budget. Guadagno said from the start of the hearing that she would answer questions as the secretary of state but not as the lieutenant governor.

Senate Budget and Appropriations Chairman Paul Sarlo (D., Bergen) asked Guadagno repeatedly whether she would answer questions about the state budget, to which Guadagno said she would not because she was appearing in her capacity as secretary of state.

"I find that quite disappointing," Sarlo said. "We should not be afraid to talk about his budget. Why are we afraid to talk about it? This administration has prided themselves on being more transparent than any other administration - there's an opportunity for them to present it on a live stage for the people of New Jersey..."

"Overall, the theme of this year's budget I think really should be both defended and discussed in a public realm such as this and it's quite disappointing that the lieutenant governor has chosen not to," Sarlo continued.

"I'm sorry you've decided to make a speech instead, but this is not the place for, that," Guadagno responded. "If you want the lieutenant governor to appear before you it's the same thing as asking the governor to appear before you. You haven't invited him and even if you had you know that's totally inappropriate. All you're doing right now is making a speech for the cameras and that is totally inappropriate."

"Excuse me! Excuse me! Excuse me!" Sarlo interjected. "That is inappropriate lieutenant governor. We're a coequal branch of government, okay, and for you to make that comment is quite condescending to me, as the chairman of this committee, to every member of this Legislature, and to everyone who has ever served on this budget committee. I don't take that lightly to say I am here to make a speech before the cameras. I am quite offended by that comment that you made..."

Later in the hearing, Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono (D., Middlesex) continued Sarlo's line of questioning 

"You are one heartbeat away from the governor's office, don't you think you should be ready to answer questions on the budget?" Buono asked.

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