Getting Murphy on Sweeney’s Path

State Senate President Steve Sweeney was On The Record where he was asked:


Sweeney’s Path to Progress idea is deeply flawed and wholly inadequate yet he still can’t get Governor Phil Murphy to go along.


Here is what the Murphy administration’s propaganda arm (Action Together New Jersey) has been working on:

A top aide to Gov. Phil Murphy, in a conference call with liberal activists, suggested ways to push back against state Senate President Stephen Sweeney’s big plan to fix New Jersey’s long-term fiscal problems, NJ Advance Media has learned.

The aide — Deborah Cornavaca, Murphy’s deputy chief of staff for outreach — said during the call Wednesday that Sweeney, a fellow Democrat but frequent Murphy rival, is pushing “a false narrative” against public-worker unions.

Sweeney, D-Gloucester, told NJ Advance Media he’s bothered by Cornavaca’s appearance on the call.

“You can imagine how disappointed I am that a deputy chief of staff is calling groups to basically attack,” Sweeney said Thursday.


The conference call, organized by advocacy group Action Together NJ, came 24 hours before Sweeney is scheduled to host a town hall in Sewell on Thursday night to discuss his “Path to Progress” report, which he commissioned to find ways to save the state government money.

Among the report’s biggest recommendation is to make more cuts to pension and health benefits for the state’s public workers to curb their ever-ballooning costs.


Cornavaca, who was identified as a longtime member of Action Together NJ, made it clear on the call she was “speaking to fellow activists and organizers.”

“While my day job is a deputy chief to the governor, I am not wearing my official hat when I have the privilege of talking to you here tonight,” she added.

Cornavaca argued that “the focus” of Sweeney’s report “was to force a false narrative, in my opinion.”

“I’m not going to hide that I’m biased about this,” she said.

Cornavaca also said she “shouldn’t hide that I’m a unionist through and through and that I do agree with Governor Murphy that the commitments we made to public-sector workers are ones we have to figure out how to honor.”

Cornavaca is a former official with the New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, which is one of Sweeney’s chief enemies. The NJEA spent millions in 2017 in an unsuccessful bid to unseat Sweeney.

“To say there’s any magic bullet and that the magic bullet that rests on the back on public-sector workers is a narrative that I personally reject, and I think it’s based far more on a personal agenda than one that looks at public-sector workers as taxpayers, as homeowners, as hard-working New Jerseys who contribute to the economy,” Cornavaca said on the call.

Instead, she said, activists could counter Sweeney by bringing up a recent audit that Murphy’s administration released on billions in tax breaks that former Republican Gov. Chris Christie gave out to corporations, with the approval of the Democrat-controlled state Legislature.


Sweeney said his report is “not picking on anybody,” but something needs to be done to improve the state government’s finances.

“We have a crisis that we can’t ignore,” he said.

Sweeney said he’s especially angry the conference call came days after he, Murphy, and state Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, reached a deal on legislation to gradually raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024.

“We just came to an agreement on minimum wage, and now this?” Sweeney said. “Let’s air it out publicly. Let’s air out the plans. Let’s have a real discussion on this stuff.”

Dan Bryan, a Murphy spokesman, said: “In her role as Deputy Chief of Staff for Outreach, Deb regularly engages with advocacy groups and residents. She remains a valued member of the governor’s team.”

Action Together NJ did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Murphy has not publicly said what he thinks of Sweeney’s recommendations to cut pensions and health benefits.

But the governor is an open supporter of public-worker unions. And his administration released its own report last month that called for changes to health benefits but suggested no cuts.

This situation could also muddy the waters as Murphy prepares to unveil his second state budget proposal in March. He has not ruled out raising more state taxes to help pay for increases to public-worker pensions — which Sweeney and Coughlin say they’re against.

12 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by skip3house on January 27, 2019 at 11:49 am

    Sweeney just covered the points to consider, not solutions, Hard details/facts/… not lend themselves to TV solutions. He did mention experts were on the job, or soon will be? Meanwhile…


  2. Posted by MJ on January 28, 2019 at 8:16 am

    Hasn’t Sweeney been pushing for reforms on pensions for years and has always gotten shot down…I remember way back him talking about the dangers of not doing anything to reel in costs and one of his suggestions mirrored the Iron Workers pension plan which sounded more financially sensible?

    Anybody remember? Obviously, this is NOT a new topic for these “experts” to keep talking and talking and nothing ever gets done


  3. Posted by Tough Love on January 28, 2019 at 8:46 am

    Being a leader in the steelworker’s Union Sweeney realizes that spending so mUCH on PUBLIC Sector pensions reduces the amount that can be spent on OTHER things ….. including major construction projects ………. think roads & bridges, etc. that employ many steelworkers. Clearly he also saw the disconnect between the MUCH MUCH richer plans granted PUBLIC Sector workers (ESPECIALLY Police) vs those granted his Union’s members.

    The fatal flaw in even Sweeney’s proposals is that don’t go far enough in the sense of reducing costs near-term costs and rapidly stopping the accrual of ADDITIONAL pension service under unaffordable formulas and provisions. Specifically, to have a material financial impact, the pension changes must include all (or very near* all) CURRENT workers with respect to the FUTURE service.

    * Notwithstanding the legal difficulties of doing so, INSTEAD of applying the proposed FUTURE-service pension reductions ONLY to new employees and those with less than 5-years service, they NEED TO be applied to EVERYONE (preferably) ….. or to at least EVERYONE who has not ALREADY met the age & service criteria to retire immediately. The math doesn’t work w/o doing so …….. and EVEN THEN it doesn’t lower the huge financial hole we are now in for PAST service accruals, but will (given sufficient reduction in the pension richness) go a long way to stopping further growth in the size of that hole.


    • Posted by PS Drone on January 28, 2019 at 2:07 pm

      Reductions need to also be applied to anyone who retired in the last 10 years. Outrageousness cannot be grandfathered.


      • Posted by Tough Love on January 28, 2019 at 2:28 pm

        While (based on the ludicrously excessive pension granted by Union-BOUGHT and self-interested/conflicted Elected Officials), doing so is certainly justified, but It’s hard to see how we can reduced PAST service accruals outside of a Bankruptcy …… which is not now an option at the State level.


        • Posted by Tough Love on January 28, 2019 at 4:05 pm

          That said assuming NJ just stopped paying the full pensions saying that we simply do not have sufficient funds to do so, given the COLA-suspension decision of the NJ Supreme Court, it certainly WOULD BE interesting to see how the inevitable court challenge that would follow such a reduction would turn out.

          Based on my knowledge of the generosity of NJ’s Public Sector pensions vs those typically granted Private Sector workers, one would be VERY hard-pressed to find a Public Sector worker that would be in a worse position (than that of their Private Sector counterpart) if the VALUE of their pension was reduced by 50% (via a reduction in the $ amount paid and/or an increase in the age at which an unreduced pension can begin. And yes, I realize that for those already collecting, it would be quite difficult to do the 2-nd of those options.


  4. Sweeney is liar out for his own power grab. The Path to Poverty will ruin the small town feel of many NJ local communities.


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