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There was a lot of anger pouring out from Democrats in New Jersey over their budget battle. I've heard Sweeney is in hot water also and he responded to Christie's line-item veto by having one of the angriest responses I've ever heard.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney went to bed furious Thursday night after reviewing the governor’s line-item veto of the state budget.
He woke up Friday morning even angrier.
“This is all about him being a bully and a punk,” he said in an interview Friday.
“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.”
This is not your regular budget dispute. This is personal. And it could have seismic impact on state politics.
Because 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.”
It is a law of nature that Democrats and Republicans fight over budgets, like dogs chasing cats. And both parties are playing to their ideological scripts in this dispute.
But Sweeney’s beef with the governor goes much deeper. He feels the governor has acted in bad faith.
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.
“After all the heavy lifting that’s been done – 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 details are even uglier. The governor, Sweeney said, personally told him they would talk. His staff called Sweeney and asked him to remain close all day Wednesday. At one point, the staff told him the governor planned to call in five minutes.
“I sat in my office all day like a nitwit, figuring we were going to talk,” Sweeney says.
As for the vindictive cuts, Sweeney’s list of suspects is a long one.
Are you shocked that Christie acted this way? No phone call after he sandbagged you? How could he expect anything less? I've heard that Sweeney's action have damaged the Democratic Party in NJ tremendously.
“He’s mean-spirited,” Sweeney said in the Friday interview. “He’s angry. If you don’t do what he says, I liken it to being spoiled, I’m going to get my way, or else.”
And: “He’s a rotten prick.”
The truth is that in New Jersey, the governor has all the power in a budget fight. He simply vetoes any budget line he doesn’t like, and it disappears.
Check out this article to read about some of the important funding that he slashed: Outrage and disappointment follow Gov. Christie's line-item veto of Democrats' $30.6B budget
"The only people that benefit in Chris Christie’s new normal are economically well-off, white and male."
The governor’s office declined to answer questions about specific cuts yesterday, including why some programs were chopped and others were not.