Last Friday started with a tense morning meeting between top aides from the governor's office and from the Senate and Assembly Democratic offices. Words were exchanged. Doors were slammed.
Then came a double whammy of announcements from Gov. Phil Murphy's administration:
* The state is gearing up for a government shutdown.
* The treasurer is immediately freezing all discretionary spending to avoid running out of cash from the pot of money used to run state government.
State operations won't grind to a halt during a spending freeze. However, employee promotions and hiring will be put on hold, as will some purchasing.
The treasurer's warnings are dire, and the solutions are fraught with politics.
It comes down to this: Murphy has a special reason to be desperate for a hike in the sales tax, and he wants a budget maneuver to make sure there's enough cash on hand.
His fellow Democrats who lead the state Legislature aren't sold on taxes or budget moves, at least not yet. Everything is a negotiation, Senate President Stephen Sweeney says.
But how did we get to this point?
It's not a simple case of New Jersey spending too much or taking in too little.
This is an interesting tale of big decisions made by governors and lawmakers dating back to the 1970s, and how they are coming home to roost for Murphy in 2018.
Here's how it happened, and what we face: