TRENTON — Time is running out to reach agreement on a new state spending plan and the threat of government shutdown is looming larger by the hour.

Gov. Phil Murphy, state Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin — all Democrats — are holding dueling news conferences and issuing press releases every day, each side blaming the other for the stalemate.

Murphy wants more than a billion and a half dollars in tax hikes, while the Legislative leaders have insisted to this point they won’t go along with that idea.

Patrick Murray, the director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, says all of these individuals are Democrats, which means they’re supposed to get along, but that doesn’t seem to be the case at all.

“Really, it’s boiled down to a real personality war here, mainly between the governor and the president of the Senate,” he said.

“We’ve had leaders of the same party disagreeing on a budget and we’ve seen budget shutdowns with one party in control. But I don’t think we’ve seen anything where it was clearly this personal. Not that they just couldn’t agree to terms, but that each side was accusing the other of bargaining in bad faith.”

“That’s taking it up a notch, that’s certainly a new development,” he said.

He said what’s key is what happens at the end of the budget negotiation process but in the meantime, “People are wondering who’s in charge of New Jersey.”

Michele Siekerka, the president of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, says this kind of in-fighting sends a negative message.

“Businesses need predictability and certainty, and that goes for economic predictability and certainty as well as political predictability and certainty,” she said.

“You can see in the situation we have right now, we have none of that, and when that happens, what business does is they step back and they freeze their hand on their wallet.”

She said the Jersey economy has been strong, but “what we’re doing right now is we’re causing business to take a big pause before they take that big step of investing or re-investing in the state of New Jersey. That should cause us great concern.”

She added any company considering relocating to the Garden State has a certain number of boxes they will check off as they make their decision.

“And I would suggest nobody is checking this box in terms of political certainty and direction in the state of New Jersey.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at

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