Gov. Phil Murphy's top priorities for the year ahead have stalled and are at risk of dying legislatively as rising tensions over tax incentives consume an increasing amount of attention in the state capital.
The Democratic leaders of the Legislature have shot down Murphy's latest bid for a so-called millionaires tax, and the long-held goal of legalizing recreational marijuana remains just as elusive now as it was last year, when Murphy and lawmakers had planned to have it passed. And the governor's plan to install a new set of tax breaks has become a footnote in the dramatic narrative about the current incentives he has ordered to be investigated.
While some veteran lawmakers view the dispute over incentives as separate from negotiations on marijuana and the millionaires tax, increasing acrimony over an investigative task force hired by Murphy has driven an even larger wedge between the governor and Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester.
Sweeney did not show up to a scheduled meeting with Murphy and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, on Thursday afternoon to discuss the party's priorities. That meeting was scheduled a day after Sweeney's closest ally, the powerful Camden County insurance executive George E. Norcross III, upbraided Murphy for what he called a "designed strategy" to "strike back" at South Jersey.
The task force turned its focus last week to companies connected to Norcross and raised the possibility that wrongdoing in the incentives program was subject to prosecution.