Speaking in the backyard of New Jersey’s top state lawmakers with whom he most often locks horns, Gov. Phil Murphy told a crowded room Tuesday night not to believe an “insider narrative” that he doesn’t get along with Democrats in the Legislature.
“Do we agree on everything? No,” Murphy said at Rowan University in Glassboro, which is represented by state Senate President Stephen Sweeney.
“(But) don’t fall into this insider narrative that we don’t get into the room together … that we don’t get along,” Murphy said. “It’s just not true.”
Murphy touted the more than 400 bills the Democratic-controlled Legislature sent him and that he signed into law as he approaches his two-year mark in office as evidence he works with Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin.
“What does that tell you?” Murphy asked, speaking at the university’s Institute for Public Policy and Citizenship. “The phrase it takes a village is true.”
The governor rattled off some of those accomplishments during his speech: Stricter gun control laws, increased minimum wage, equal pay for women, and so on.
But omitted was the regular sniping and dueling committees and investigations that have been blamed for preventing Murphy from scoring some of his other big campaign promises, such as legal marijuana and a millionaires tax in the Garden State.
The battles have been rough.
The governor had two budget fights with the Legislature over a millionaires tax that escalated to a fever pitch in June when a pro-Murphy group run by his close allies called the budget the Legislature sent him a “scam” proposal that “screws working people in our state.”
Coughlin, D-Middlesex, called the attack “unacceptable” and blasted the group, New Direction New Jersey, saying whoever wrote the message campaign “did not have the courage to attach their names to a letter disparaging other Democrats” and said “the governor (should) hold those who did write it accountable.”
But Murphy never distanced himself from the group.
And the battles between he and Sweeney, D-Gloucester, have been more intense.
The pair’s biggest brouhaha has centered on corporate tax incentives.
Murphy’s administration launched an investigation into the state’s tax break program that pits him against Sweeney’s longtime political ally and childhood friend: George Norcross III.
Norcross, the South Jersey Democratic power broker, in turn, declared an all-out war on Murphy, calling him a “liar” and “politically incompetent.”
Despite the heated rhetoric that has slowly ratcheted up, Murphy insisted Tuesday the state of the New Jersey Democratic Party is strong.
“You don’t get 435 bills signed” without “a spirit of cooperation,” Murphy said.
Have a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips
Get the latest updates right in your inbox. Subscribe to NJ.com’s newsletters.