The Newark Star-Ledger has some explosive quotes from one of the two Democratic legislative leaders who recently reached a compromise on a pension reform bill with Gov. Chris Christie regarding the overall state budget:
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 [man] who [messes up] everybody.”
This is not your regular budget dispute. This is personal. And it could have seismic impact on state politics.
A Christie spokesman didn’t immediately respond to an email. But the pension deal was widely viewed as the antithesis to the bitter battle over union rights in Wisconsin.
And Sweeney’s comments could be a harbinger of future rancor, as the nationally-watched governor pivots toward an education reform agenda by the end of the next legislative session.
UPDATE: A Christie aide said Sweeney’s comments were far off.
“The Governor met with Steve Sweeney and Speaker Oliver for 1 1/4 hours privately on Monday afternoon June 27th, met with Sweeney on Tuesday before the bill signing, and spoke to Sweeney again on the phone Tuesday,” the aide said. “Contrary to what the Senate President said, he was not sitting in his office ‘like a nitwit’ on Wednesday; he was in session with the Senate all day on Wednesday into the late evening – not waiting for the Governor to call him about a meeting.”
A Christie source noted that many political observers have called the Democrats’ budget a “setup,” and not a true starting point for negotiations, adding, “So, please, spare us some of the shock, surprise – and foul language – that Governor Christie would merely sit still for them to punch him repeatedly in the head like that.”