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Olive Branch or Stick? — Sweeney Calls on Murphy to ‘Get in a Room’ and Talk

New Jersey’s Democratic leaders are at odds over landmark legislative issues. When will they talk things out?

With the clock ticking down on a couple of landmark legislative issues — legalizing recreational marijuana and raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour — Gov. Phil Murphy and Senate President Steve Sweeney continue to disagree over critical details and blame each other for delays in pressing forward with legislation.

On Friday, Sweeney made an offer: “I’ve read the governor’s comments where he said, ‘We can resolve this in an hour if we get in a room.’ I don’t necessarily disagree. So, how about, ‘Governor. Let’s get in a room.’” Sweeney confirmed that he and the governor had not spoken in a couple of months.

A source in the governor’s office said Sweeney, Murphy and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin met for dinner in early October, canceled a November meeting, but have more meetings scheduled for December, January and February, ahead of budget season. Whether that might de-escalate any lingering personal tension between Sweeney and Murphy is unknown. Earlier this week, the governor slapped back when Sweeney accused him of showboating over the minimum wage issue, while Sweeney sat through a hearing on legalizing marijuana.

Murphy supports raising the minimum wage with no carveouts, while Sweeney wants to exempt farm and seasonal labor and youth workers. They also disagree on how much to tax legalized recreational marijuana. And they disagree on the creation of a commission to oversee the new cannabis marketplace.

Another potential clash looms, as lawmakers prepare for the governor’s second-year budget proposal. The first budget battle came close to shutting down state government before Murphy and the Legislature agreed to raise $1.7 billion in taxes. Sweeney subsequently spent months pushing his plan to save money and fix the state pension fund. Raising taxes is not on his agenda.

The next legislative session is on December 17.

Read the full story on NJTV News Online, a content partner of NJ Spotlight.

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