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N.J. lawmakers, governor far apart on budget deal

Trenton state Capitol building. (WHYY file photo)

Trenton state Capitol building. (WHYY file photo)

New Jersey legislative leaders and Gov. Phil Murphy have until the end of June to reach agreement on a new state budget. A stalemate could risk a potential government shutdown.

Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Tom Coughlin are resisting the governor’s proposed tax increases and free community college.

But Democratic Assemblywoman Patricia Egan Jones said she does not anticipate a government shutdown.

“I think calmer heads will prevail, and we will surely come to an agreement,” said Jones, D-Camden. “Nobody needs a shutdown of government. We all look bad when that happens.”

And time remains for majority Democrats in the Legislature to reach a budget deal with Murphy so there isn’t a shutdown, said Assembly Budget Committee chairwoman Eliana Pintor Marin.

“I don’t think we’re going to head that way. It’ll be bad precedent. We’re all within the same party,” said Marin, D-Essex. “Not that it’s impossible, but I think that’s the last thing that anybody wants to do.”

Republican Sen. Sam Thompson isn’t as confident as his Democratic colleagues.

“I think there’s a good possibility that will occur,” said Thompson, R-Middlesex. “There’s quite a few controversial proposals he has in there related to taxes and some other things that he wishes to do. I think they’re in trouble.”

Sen. Mike Doherty said it’s likely Murphy will have to go along with the wishes of Sweeney and Coughlin.

“Otherwise,” said Doherty, R-Somerset,”there is very well going to be a shutdown. I don’t see President Sweeney posting a major tax increase vote in the Senate. I just don’t see it.”

Lawmakers and the governor are far apart in budget negotiations, said Sweeney, D-Gloucester. But he’s optimistic they’ll be able to reach an agreement to avert a shutdown.

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