South Jersey Democratic party boss George Norcross is stepping up his criticism of Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy.

After telling NJ Advance Media that Murphy “thinks he’s the King of England and Mrs. (Murphy) thinks she’s the Queen of England and they don’t have to answer to anybody,” Norcross complained the governor has repeatedly acted “recklessly, stupidly and incompetently.”

He also predicted Murphy can expect to be challenged in the Democratic primary when he is up for re-election in two years. Who that could be he did not say, although Senate President Steve Sweeney, a Norcross ally, has not ruled out a primary challenge, Politico New Jersey reported Thursday.

Norcross is furious after a special task force was ordered by the governor to look into millions of dollars of tax incentives doled out by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority to Conner Strong & Buckelew, a company where Norcross is executive chairman, and several other entities that he has a connection to in and around Camden.

Norcross said the lucrative tax incentives dramatically helped Camden, a city plagued by crime and poverty, and the program did not unfairly or illegally benefit the businesses he is associated with.

During an event in Trenton on Thursday, Murphy insisted he is only doing his job as the head of the Garden State.

He said an audit conducted by the Office of the State Comptroller found inconsistencies in the EDA tax incentive program, and 20% of the jobs that were supposed to have been created by the incentives could not be identified.

"I cannot, as the chief executive officer of this state, leave that as it is," he said, saying as much as $3 billion needs to be properly accounted for.

“We put in place an independent task force and they are independent. I met them when I interviewed and hired them and I’ve had no interaction with them since. And the objective here, the end game is the truth.”

Murphy said the task force is simply working “to track down every penny on behalf of the taxpayers of this great state, and to get on with the business of building the stronger and fairer New Jersey that we are all committed to.”

He added no one works harder for the state than his wife, Tammy Murphy, on things like maternal and infant mortality, environmental and education issues.

“She doesn’t get a dime for doing it, bless her heart. She’s a mother of four and I’m incredibly proud of her.”

Murphy also said when his tenure ends as governor, whenever that is, he will have done more for Camden than any other governor.

As for the comment by Norcross that Murphy thinks of himself as the King of England, he said it is “very hard for an Irishman to be referred to as the King of England. I’m still coming to grips with that, I have to admit.”

WNYC and ProPublica have reported that more than $1 billion in tax breaks were given to businesses and charities connected to Norcross by the EDA during former Gov. Chris Christie’s tenure.

Thursday afternoon, several South Jersey leaders put out a news release criticizing Murphy for what they perceived as his attacks on Camden.

 

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com