TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) – Senate President Stephen Sweeney said he was regretful but unapologetic for calling Gov. Chris Christie a “bully and a punk” when talking about the governor’s budget cuts over the weekend.
Sweeney said he was upset after Christie cut money from programs and services for the poor, elderly and disabled.
“This got very personal for me because of the way he hurt people,” Sweeney said.
Christie cut $139 million to struggling municipalities from his original budget, leaving just $10 million. He reduced funding by $8 million for AIDS drug distribution, by $5 million for legal services and by $25 million for Tuition Aid Grants, among others.
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Sweeney said he was particularly upset that Christie cut funds for an early intervention program for children with disabilities, which Sweeney’s daughter benefited from as an infant.
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Sweeney says he regrets his choice of language, but is not going to apologize.
“Well, you know people said I went over the top and I probably did, but I’m not apologizing for it because he hurt people in this budget,” Sweeney told WCBS 880′s Pat Carroll and Michael Wallace on Wednesday morning. “He was vindictive and he went after people, not to balance a budget, just to prove a point.”
Although Christie recently referred to a Democrat assemblywoman as “a jerk” Christie’s office said it was “inappropriate and disrespectful” for Sweeney to call the governor names.
The state Republican Party also called on Sweeney to apologize Tuesday.
But Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver came to the Senate leader’s defense.
“This governor has constantly used inappropriate and disrespectful language since he took office, so maybe from now on he will finally at least think twice before doing so again,” she said.
Sweeney said Democrats would meet this week to determine their next move. The Assembly wasn’t scheduled to convene this week. Override attempts are likely on at least some of the governor’s line-item cuts.
But this isn’t the first time Sweeney and Christie have been at odds.
In the past, Christie has called Sweeney the leader of the “do-nothing Legislature” while Sweeney has nicknamed the governor “King Christie” in news releases and in previous interviews.
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