Murphy touts pre-K as meet with legislative leaders gets rescheduled

Gov. Phil Murphy put off a much-anticipated meeting with legislative leaders in favor of a sit-down with what was very likely a much friendlier crowd — preschoolers at the Woodmere School in Eatontown — where he announced the release of a second round of funding for full-day preschool.

“Throughout this school year, New Jersey has now invested more than $47 million in preschool education expansion aid funding, which is part of a total of $83 million commitment we made to our youngest learners through our budget,” Murphy said.

Yes, the budget process, also known as that time the governor, the Senate president and the Assembly speaker all agreed on something and avoided a government shutdown. Those were the days. But the road to getting on the same page has been bumpy pretty much ever since. A meeting of the big three, scheduled for Thursday, was supposed to bring them closer on the looming legislative items of legal weed and a new minimum wage. But that meeting was postponed until later in the month.

What does that say about the big issues facing them?

“It says very little, and I think we all came to that conclusion together. Just because we’re not in the same room together, we’ve had a very significant amount of communication in the margins, even in the course of the past couple of days,” Murphy said.

Asked to explain whether that “communication in the margins” had gotten the parties of the same party closer to an agreement on a new minimum wage, for instance, the governor didn’t so much answer as he reiterated his position.

“I’m frustrated it hasn’t happened already, let me say that for the record, as I’ve said probably 100 times,” he said. “Having said that, there’s a spirit of goodwill. There’s a good amount of communication. I remain optimistic. When, I’m not sure exactly, what exactly it looks like. You’ve heard me say before we want to get to $15 as fast and as responsibly as possible, and I don’t want to create, and while I’m reasonable about this, I don’t want to create a permanent second class of citizen in the state.”

The kids were spared a look into how the legislative sausage is made. They got the fun part, hanging with that really tall man with the bodyguards, who read a book about thanks.

So Thursday’s lesson: grateful school kids top combative legislators, for photo ops anyway. As for clearing the log jam on pending legislation, maybe not so much.