An ad advocating Gov. Phil Murphy’s millionaire’s tax – funded by the group New Direction New Jersey – has drawn out the frustration of the generally quiet Assembly Speaker.
“I am disappointed that allies of the Governor continue to spend money from undisclosed donors, for the purpose of dividing legislators,” Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-19th District, said in a Thursday morning statement.
New Direction NJ, which is at the center of the so-called “dark money scandal,” was revealed to have been funded by $2.5 million of donations from the New Jersey Education Association, some of Murphy’s strongest allies in Trenton, according to a report from Politico. The agency has continually resisted calls to disclose its donors.
The group said Wednesday that it will spend $1 million for similarly-natured ads in an effort to whip up support among voters.
“For my part, I will continue to advance fiscally responsible legislation and to work with my colleagues to craft a state budget, without being distracted by negative political ads, especially when funded by outside special interest groups,” Coughlin added.
The office for Coughlin’s upper-house counterpart, Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District, would not comment. But Sweeney was also upset over the ad, according to a recent report by NJ.com.
The NJEA and Sweeney had a falling out in 2017 when he said he would not support fully funding the massively underfunded public worker and school employee pensions. The union in turn backed a Republican candidate in an unsuccessful bid to unseat Sweeney during that year’s state Senate election.
Murphy unveiled the millionaire’s tax in March for his 2020 budget which starts July 1. It would enact a 10.75 percent rate on earners above $1 million and make roughly $447 million for the state, but Sweeney and Coughlin have called it a non-starter.
Combined with Murphy’s scrutiny into how businesses connected to Sweeney’s longtime friend and ally, insurance executive and South Jersey political power broker George Norcross, may have benefited from the multibillion-dollar Grow New Jersey tax breaks, the prospect of a state government shutdown has become all the more likely.