Morning News Digest: July 2, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Christie calls special session
Gov. Chris Christie today called the Legislature back to Trenton for a special legislative session.
In a letter to legislative leaders Christie demanded the Legislature come back to work on tax relief, telling legislators they have a fundamental choice to make.
“Continue to move forward by letting people, and not government, enjoy more of the earnings produced by their own labor, or take a step back to repeat the days where taxes are the answer to each and every challenge,” said Christie. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Sweeney: We will be there
Senate President Steve Sweeney responded to the governor’s call for a special legislative session today, saying that despite the balmy temperatures his caucus will be there.
But in a statement issued to the press, Sweeney pointed out that any tax cut will have no effect until 2013.
“We presented the Governor with a budget committed to providing middle class property tax relief, and regardless of the governor’s political theatre no tax breaks will even go into effect until 2013. While the last thing anyone wants in the middle of a heat wave is hot air coming from Trenton, we will be there,” Sweeney said. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Winners and Losers: Week of the Budget and Higher Ed Reorg
No sooner had the Democrats delivered their $31.7 billion budget to Gov. Chris Christie than the feisty chief executive produced a pen.
A short while ago, Christie released the effects of his red lines to the Dems’ budget.
But there was a lot more going on in New Jersey than just projected state spending, and while we tried to resist the Sarah Palin reference we couldn’t bypass a bridge to nowhere… (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Legislative leaders react to budget
Senate leaders on both sides of the aisle issued their reactions to Gov. Chris Christie’s signing off on the state’s $31.7 billion budget Friday.
Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean (R-21) lauded the governor for his decision to slash $361 million from the plan crafted by Democrats in the Legislature. Kean also criticized Democrats for not delivering immediate tax relief.
“Just as Trenton Democrats found over $100 million in cuts to redirect funds to their ‘priorities’ in the budget, Governor Christie has used the line item veto to free up ample funding for the single most important thing we can do for New Jersey’s economy: giving broad-based tax relief to families and job creators,” Kean said in a statement. (Arco, PolitickerNJ)
Christie makes good on veto threat for $31.7 billion N.J. budget
Governor Chris Christie, with little more than a day to go to meet a statutory deadline, erased $361 million in Democratic spending initiatives before he signed a $31.7 billion New Jersey budget for fiscal 2013.
The first-term Republican vetoed what he described as measures that “represented a step backward” by Democrats, in a statement sent from his office yesterday. The spending plan includes $347 million in tax relief for businesses and $1.03 billion for state pensions, according to the statement. (Young and Dopp, Bloomberg)
Here’s a summary of the eight bills Governor Christie vetoed Friday. (The Record)
Christie to Democrats: Let’s make a deal
Gov. Chris Christie’s campaign for a tax cut, his case for reelection as governor, and his quest for a leading role on the national stage all get rolled into one with his speech to a joint session of the Legislature this morning.
The high-profile speech gives Christie a platform to draw a sharp contrast with New Jersey Democrats on the tax cuts that would be the signature issue of his gubernatorial reelection bid. It also offers a final opportunity to showcase his rhetorical skills as Mitt Romney weighs his choices for vice president and keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention in Tampa just eight weeks away. (Magyar, NJ Spotlight)
N.J. Assembly members divided on attending Monday special session called by Christie
Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald said he and other leaders in the lower house haven’t figured out if most Assembly Democrats will voluntarily come to the special session Gov. Chris Christie has called.
“We’re continuing to talk to members. Leadership is right now asking if people will be there,” said Greenwald (D-Camden). “We’re waiting for word back from our members as who can be there so we can guarantee a quorum.”
Christie yesterday summoned the Legislature back to the Statehouse for a special session, upset that they did not pass legislation enabling a tax cut that would take effect in January. Instead, Democrats have said they will enact the cut if Christie meets his optimistic revenue projections. (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)
Assembly Democrats say Gov. Christie has a ‘manic zeal to protect tax cuts for the mega-rich’
Senate Democrats will heed Gov. Chris Christie’s call for a special joint session of the Legislature on Monday.
The Republican governor took the dramatic step this morning in response to Democrats’ passage of a tax on income above $1 million and their promise to cut taxes in January only if revenues match the administration’s optimistic projections.
“We presented the Governor with a budget committed to providing middle class property tax relief, and regardless of the governor’s political theatre no tax breaks will even go into effect until 2013, ” Senate President Steve Sweeney said in a statement. “While the last thing anyone wants in the middle of a heat wave is hot air coming from Trenton, we will be there.” (Portnoy and Friedman, The Star-Ledger)
Gov. Christie blasts Democrats for cuts to programs for poor, abused, drug addicted
As Gov. Chris Christie slashed millions in spending proposed by his Democratic adversaries, he also chided them for their “irrational” decisions to eliminate $20.4 million for programs that benefit poor families, abused children and people with drug addiction and other mental illnesses.
Moments after releasing his line-item vetoes in the $37.1 billion budget Friday, Christie accused the Legislature of being “really insensitive” and “not showing the kind of leadership you would hope to get from folks like that.”
“They’re taking money from troubled families,” Christie added. “The children and families commissioner said clearly that this is money she needs to be able to fully take care of these families in need.” (Livio, The Star-Ledger)
A look at special sessions of the N.J. Legislature called by past governors
The special session seems to be the weapon of choice when it comes to governors wanting to get under the skin of lawmakers.
The fact is, a special session of the Legislature is not all that special — just inconvenient, like during a wilting heat wave on the week of the Fourth of July.
A special session simply means the Legislature gathers on a day other than when it is normally scheduled to meet. Under the state Constitution, the governor can call one “whenever in his opinion the public interest shall require.” (Staff, The Star-Ledger)
Compromise led to deal on teacher tenure
Lawmakers and education advocates came to a remarkable compromise in forging an overhaul of tenure laws to make it easier for public schools to oust ineffective educators. But building a consensus meant dropping a change that most other states have already made: making teachers’ effectiveness a factor in determining which lose their jobs in case of layoffs.
Gov. Christie, who opposes using seniority to determine layoffs, is still deciding whether he can accept the compromise.
If he vetoes the bill, he will undo a deal among a unanimous Legislature and groups that do not often agree on the details of improving schools. (Mulvihill, Associated Press)
School aid left intact, but debate looms on how NJ figures numbers
New Jersey’s fiscal 2013 budget may be signed — give or take a line item or two — but the debate over how to distribute its largest slice of spending is far from over.
Gov. Chris Christie sought in his budget proposal to rewrite parts of the state’s school funding formula, tweaking the intricate methods for determining how much districts receive from the state for individual children. The $8 billion distributed to districts represents close to a quarter of all state spending.
But the Democrat-led Legislature succeeded in tweaking it right back in the final budget approved last week, as it removed all the budget language in Christie’s proposal that would have essentially codified his changes. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
A look at the bottom line in health-care reform
For the majority of Americans — those with health insurance — the changes to come from the most ambitious overhaul of the social safety net in a generation turn out to be relatively modest, experts say. The effect on the pocketbooks of most New Jerseyans is expected to be slight.
Medical costs will not plummet. Premiums will still rise, albeit at a slightly slower rate. Some insurance policies will change, but for most, that will mean better value for the premium dollar.
“The dirty little secret, despite all the politics, is this is basically a very incremental law,” said Alan Weil, executive director of the National Academy for State Health Policy. “The average citizen, despite the controversy over the law, will not see fundamental changes.” (Washburn, The Record)
Analysis: N.J. budget a win for business, millionaires
The state budget signed by Governor Christie on Friday doesn’t include the immediate income tax cut he’s been seeking since January, but it does cut business taxes.
Democrats who control the Legislature, meanwhile, can say they denied the Republican governor a complete win on his signature income tax cut, while at the same time leaving open the door to their own version of tax relief, targeting middle-class homeowners.
“I’m disappointed on the tax cut,” Christie said in an interview with The Record, before ordering the Legislature back in session Monday. “But as I’ve said at town hall meetings, I’m hardly ready to give up on them.” (Reitmeyer, The Record)
Business advocates praise Christie’s line-item vetoes
Gov. Chris Christie’s move to veto $361 million from the state’s $31.7 billion budget drew immediate praise from business advocates on Friday evening.
The line-item vetoes by the governor trimmed spending across a range of services, including medical services in nursing homes. Christie preserved $347.5 million in business tax cuts, including an additional $163.5 million in cuts on top of the $184 million in the fiscal year ending on Saturday.
“It’s a pro-business budget; continues the governor’s quest of job creation and creating a better economic climate; and doesn’t raise taxes,” said Michael Egenton, senior vice president for the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce. He noted that the budget is similar to the one Christie initially proposed. (Kitchenman, NJBIZ)
N.J. working to protect underage workers from abuses
U.S. and New Jersey Departments of Labor are at the shore, shopping malls and farms this summer, making sure young workers, some as young as 12, are not doing more than federal and state law allows.
Local business owners said that while child-labor laws do make sure minors are not taken advantage of, they can be difficult and time-consuming to maintain, making it tempting to hire only workers who are at least 18. (D’Amico, Associated Press/Press of Atlantic City)
Norcross: Rutgers-Rowan partnership ‘most important thing’ for Camden in 50 years
When both houses of the Legislature passed a complex bit of legislation to merge parts of New Jersey’s three largest universities, it was a proud moment for George E. Norcross III, for whom the announcement represented the culmination of a decade’s worth of work.
“This is the most important thing to happen in the city of Camden for 50 years,” said Norcross, the influential power broker who runs Conner, Strong & Buckelew and chairs the board of Cooper University Hospital. “A lot of people came together and did the impossible by June 30, (which) every talking head predicted would never happen.” (Waters, NJBIZ)
Health systems say alignment will help meet goals of health care reform
Holy Redeemer Health System and Abington Health have signed a letter of intent to create a new regional health system in New Jersey and Pennsylvania adhering to principles outlined in President Barack Obama‘s health care reform, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday.
“Under health care reform, many quality improvements depend on enhanced coordination of care, which in turn relies upon closer alignment between health systems, physicians and other providers,” Robert M. Infarinato, chair of Abington, Pa.-based Abington Health, said in a statement. “We believe this partnership will facilitate the collaboration that will help both organizations move toward shared goals.” (Eder, NJBIZ)
As state ramps up reliance on solar, it looks at new ways to meet goals
With the state ramping up its reliance on solar energy, there is now a push to overhaul how New Jersey goes about meeting its aggressive goals to increase its dependence on renewable energy.
The proposal, first floated by the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel, would no longer require power suppliers to meet mandates, known as Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), in the electricity they supply to utilities in an annual auction conducted each February. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Advocate: Transportation bill ‘disappointing in many ways’
Federal legislation to issue funding for highway, bridge and transit construction projects through 2014 is scheduled for approval in Congress today, but a New Jersey transportation advocate said the state’s share of funding will not boost more development.
“This bill allows New Jersey to avoid a shutdown of transportation funding, but it’s disappointing in many ways,” said Steven Higashide, federal advocate of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. “The federal investment maintains current levels of funding plus a small inflationary increase, which is not keeping pace with historic ridership increases in New Jersey. It’s unclear if New Jersey can make a significant dent in the large repair backlog that it has. It’s really up to the state to step up investment in public transportation.” (Eder, NJBIZ)
Developers hope additional incentive money can power residential projects
With the passage of a bill that would raise the cap on the Urban Transit Hub tax credit program, residential developers say they have renewed hope the state will reinstate the incentive for use in housing and mixed-use projects.
The Assembly and Senate on Thursday passed a measure that would allow the state to issue another $250 million in tax credits, adding a cushion to a program that has been nearly depleted over the past year. The bill’s sponsors have said they expect Gov. Chris Christie to support the measure.
That could be welcome news to residential builders after the Economic Development Authority, which administers the program, temporarily froze several residential projects that applied for the incentive. That was a blow to developers who have increasingly used government incentives to finance mixed-use projects in urban areas, as banks continue to be tight with credit. (Kitchenman, NJBIZ)
NJTV making strides, but few are watching as it reaches 1st anniversary
NJTV definitely learned from its “Angelina Ballerina” mistake.
The private operator of New Jersey’s public TV didn’t interrupt the children’s cartoon last October when Gov. Chris Christie announced that he wouldn’t run for president, a decision carried live on several national and local stations.
But since then, NJTV — a subsidiary of WNET in New York — has broken into its regular schedule for Christie’s budget address, election night results, last month’s primary, the contentious hearings on Christie’s Supreme Court nominees and more. Last week, it provided live coverage of both Senate and Assembly budget votes. (McGlone, The Star-Ledger)
Pa. auditor general issues call for speedy DRPA reform
Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner, who is a commissioner of the Delaware River Port Authority, is urging a faster pace of reform at the DRPA.In a letter this week to DRPA chief executive John Matheussen, Wagner said new policies adopted in 2010 must be implemented soon.
And Wagner pointedly told Matheussen that he expected the DRPA chief to make sure new inspector general Thomas Raftery “has both the independence and the resources” to pursue waste, fraud, and abuse of authority at the agency. (Nussbaum, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Dems rip Christie for removing halfway house language
The Assembly speaker took the administration to task for removing language in the budget today regarding oversight of halfway houses.
Speaker Sheila Oliver said in a release that, “This is very concerning and troubling news. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
Departmental reorganization bills signed
The extensive reorganization of several state departments was signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie today. (Staff, State Street Wire)
Gift card escheat bill signed into law
A measure that extends the time before the state can claim unspent gift card funds has been signed into law.
A3045/S1928, which will lengthen from two to five years the period of time allowed before the escheat law takes effect, was signed today by Gov. Chris Christie. (Staff, State Street Wire)
From the Back Room
Who’ll stop the rain?
An hour after Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill that would have provided $10 million for bridge repairs in Garfield, the governor announced he was sending his lieutenant into the belly of the beast.
Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno is scheduled to preside over the swearing in of the Garfield Township Council Sunday. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Christie got boost from rival’s power
As he strolled in front of a friendly town hall audience in Palisades Park in February, Governor Christie was asked a question about the inside game of New Jersey politics: What is his relationship with George Norcross, South Jersey’s preeminent Democratic power broker?
“He has influence,” the Republican governor responded “What that means is, if he calls, I return his call. If he has an idea, I listen.”
He added, “My interaction with George has been respectful, positive and in some instances he’s been helpful. Other times, we’ve disagreed on things.” (Stile, The Record)
Did Dwek try to contribute to Christie’s campaign?
When he was an informer for the FBI, convicted con man Solomon Dwek donated to an array of politicians. And if the word of one political operative collared in Operation Bid Rig is to be believed, Dwek’s money almost found its way to Gov. Chris Christie’s gubernatorial campaign. In an FBI interview about a month before pleading guilty to extortion, Denis Jaslow, who introduced Dwek to politicians, recounted a conversation he said he had with Jose Arango, Hudson County Republican chairman. (The Auditor, The Star-Ledger)