Morning News Digest: August 20, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Winners and Losers: Week of August 13th
Don’t get too hung up on this.
The summer is out there, with the suggestion of fall already in it, and time tugging at the leaves. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
N.J. led the way in July job losses, Labor Statistics Bureau reports
The largest over-the-month decrease in employment nationally occurred in New Jersey, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The Garden State’s 12,000-job loss last month was followed by Missouri and Illinois, which lost 7,700 and 7,100 from June to July, respectively, according to the latest job numbers. (Arco, State Street Wire)
Doherty outraged no criminal prosecutions in MF Global, Corzine case
State Sen. Michael Doherty (R-23) bewailed published reports that prosecutions are unlikely following a criminal investigation into the collapse of MF Global and the disappearance of as much as $1.6 billion of customer funds.
“This is the first time in history that segregated funds held in customer accounts were raided by a financial firm to cover the firm’s losses,” said Doherty. “It’s almost unthinkable that the mega-rich executives at MF Global could loot the accounts of farmers and middle-class Americans and be allowed to get away with it.” (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Christie GOP convention keynote could be just the beginning
Chris Christie takes the stage next week at the Republican National Convention for a keynote address that will give the New Jersey governor his largest audience yet.
Last week, Christie was on vacation at the Jersey Shore, where he eschewed speechwriters and was drafting his own version of the address he’ll give in Tampa, Fla., before Republicans nominate Mitt Romney. Christie has been running potential lines past friends and advisers, said those familiar with his speech. But what exactly the speech itself will say, Christie is keeping as private as he can for now.
Analysts say Christie has an opportunity to set himself up for a 2016 presidential bid. (Hayes, The Record)
Christie’s pull tugs New Jersey Republicans to the fore
Just a few months ago, New Jersey was to the Republican Party what a Statehouse backbencher is to the Legislature: Not quite irrelevant, but underappreciated nonetheless.
“They called me several months ago and said, you’re sharing a hotel with another state and you have 150 rooms,” national committeeman Bill Palatucci said Tampa planners told him.
In his most polite Jersey-ese, he replied, “That’s not possible.”
Today, the state has a 450-room beachfront hotel to itself — and a plum seating assignment front and center on the convention floor, he said.
Call it the Christie effect. (Portnoy, The Star-Ledger)
State sees need for tax cut ‘now more than ever’
Gov. Chris Christie‘s administration stands by its revenue projections and continues to call for a broad-based tax cut, despite the release of a memo suggesting a significant revenue shortfall.
David Rosen, legislative budget and finance officer for the state Office of Legislative Services, wrote that the state has $542 million less revenue than expected for the 2012 fiscal year, which ended June 30. Rosen noted that this total typically is reduced by $200 million to $300 million by year-end accounting adjustments, according to a memo to Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Edison) that Buono released on Thursday.
The state released its own revenue report on Thursday, noting that state income tax revenue in July was $54 million higher than a year earlier. (Kitchenman, NJBIZ)
Kyrillos, wife paid IRS 37% of income in 2011
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joseph Kyrillos and his wife paid 37 percent of their taxable income in federal taxes last year — a rate even higher than the top federal income tax rate of 35 percent — according to records his campaign made public Friday.
Kyrillos provided his tax returns as Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, faces continued criticism for paying a tax rate of 13.9 percent in 2010.
Romney has declined to make returns from earlier years public, but he says he has paid taxes of “above 13 percent” each of the past 10 years. (Linhorst, The Record)
New Jersey struggles with the knotty issue of alimony reform
Like most states, New Jersey lets its judges decide whether alimony should be awarded in a divorce. Judges also determine how much is paid and for how long.
Now, some advocates want the Legislature to limit judicial discretion in alimony decisions, arguing that long-term awards can discourage ex-spouses from earning.
On the flip side, some alimony recipients say judges have unjustly denied them reasonable payments, causing financial hardship for a family that suddenly loses its breadwinner.
Family-law experts admit that New Jersey’s system isn’t perfect. But creating an alimony formula for judges may prove difficult, as marriage circumstances vary widely. (Farrell, The Record)
N.J. taps $14M to jumpstart transportation projects
U.S. Transportation Secretary Raymond LaHood today released nearly $14 million in unspent highway funds to the New Jersey Department of Transportation to jumpstart 20 transportation projects, seven of which have been stalled for nearly a decade.
“Particularly in these difficult fiscal times, states will be able to put these dollars to good use,” Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez said in a statement. “These funds will create jobs in the short term and help bring about what President (Barack) Obama called ‘an America built to last.’”
The funding is the state’s share of more than $470 million in unspent highway earmarks from the federal fiscal year 2003-2006 appropriations acts, which contain provisions authorizing LaHood to make unused funds available for any eligible highway, transit, passenger rail or port project. (Eder, NJBIZ)
Booker’s open political future stirs pot of potential candidates in Newark
Cory Booker’s political future is one of the biggest questions in New Jersey politics right now.
Yet while the nationally known mayor mulls a run for governor or U.S. Senate, he is creating a swirl of speculation in his city. The next municipal election may still be two years off, but potential mayoral candidates aren’t waiting for the mayor to make up his mind.
North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos, West Ward Councilman Ron Rice, South Ward Councilman Ras Baraka and school board member Shavar Jeffries are all considering a run for the big chair in City Hall, according to interviews with political operatives and observers in and around Newark. (Giambusso, The Star-Ledger)
Slowing open-space solar
New Jersey solar energy installers and developers are rallying against a proposal that would make it harder to win local approvals for ground-mounted installations on open space.
Existing zoning laws would be amended so certain renewable energy projects can no longer be fast-tracked as “inherently beneficial,” under a bill recently introduced by two Republicans in the Assembly.
The sponsors say they want to curb solar arrays and installations on agricultural lands or open space. Development rules would be tightened unless solar or photovoltaic energy facilities are located on or above a parking lot, rooftop or brownfield. (Jordan, Asbury Park Press)
Businesses wait for NJ offshore wind plans to fill their sails
Three years ago, politicians lauded plans to build a wind farm 13 miles off the coast of Delaware, and two New Jersey firms joined forces to lead the effort: Princeton’s NRG Energy merged with Hoboken’s Bluewater Wind, which had a power purchase deal with Delmarva Power.
Delaware Gov. Jack Markell said the NRG deal put Delaware in position to be the first state in the nation to host an offshore wind farm.
Flash forward to 2012. NRG pulled out of its deal late last year because no backers were ready to invest based on the project’s income from power it generated, and payments Delaware promised. (Caroom, The Star-Ledger)
Bergen vets lack access to program to avoid homelessness
Deanna Woods and her family nearly found themselves evicted from their Teaneck home last week.
A 42-year-old Gulf War veteran, she suffers from bipolar disorder, a mental-health condition that led the New York law firm where she worked as a legal secretary to place her on long-term disability two years ago.
When her disability payments were cut by more than half this spring, Woods had to exhaust her savings to cover the June rent. Desperate to keep herself and her three young children off the street, she scrambled to find help. (Lipman, The Record)
DWI ignition interlocks: Safeguard or excessive punishment for first-time offenders?
Before you can even start your vehicle, a device commands you to blow into a tube. A camera on the dashboard snaps your picture to ensure you are the driver.
If you pass, you’re still not done. At random times during your trip, the device will demand another breath sample and give you three chances before it starts blowing the car horn and flashing the lights if you fail and keep driving.
The device may even rat you out, dialing the local 911 center and sending your GPS position to police if you keep driving. (Higgs, Asbury Park Press)
Incentives help N.J. seniors get moving, retiring communities reach out with a host of services
As people sell their homes and look for new ones, some continuing-care retirement communities across the state are offering new services and incentives to entice senior citizens.
These services include personal moving consultants, lists of preferred real estate agents and cash loans, all offered to seniors, who make up about 20 percent of the sellers market.
These communities are part independent-living, part assisted-living and part-skilled nursing homes, providing care that progresses as the needs of an individual resident increase. There are 27 such communities in the state, with more than half concentrated in five counties: Burlington, Camden, Monmouth, Ocean and Somerset, according to a state report. (Goldberg, The Star-Ledger)
Economy slows N.J. school supply donations for kids in need
Ronald Alston knows that jittery back-to-school feeling.
Students can almost count down the waning days of summer on their fingers and toes, and as they do, the Irvington resident is facing his own deadline.
For more than 10 years, Alston has given away backpacks filled with school supplies to needy youth. But this year, a low turnout in donations has him worried for Saturday, when his nonprofit group is hosting its annual backpack giveaway in Irvington. (Lee, The Star-Ledger)
Several bills fail to win backing by pensions/benefits commission
The Pension and Health Benefits Review Commission voted unanimously today to not recommend enactment of several bills. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
Bill that would end remarriage prohibition for PFRS members’ spouses earns thumbs down from commission
The Pension and Health Benefits Review Commission voted unanimously today to not recommend the enactment of a bill which would eliminate the prohibition of death benefits for the surviving spouse of a member of the police and firefighters retirement system. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
Five things the rest of America doesn’t know about Chris Christie
In the Republican heartland, they are crazy about Gov. Chris Christie, the fire-breathing conservative and the object of Rush Limbaugh’s professed man-love.
They see Christie as a different kind of politician, tough enough to speak his mind and keep his promises. And the results are showing as he slaps some sense into that liberal backwater known as New Jersey.
If you know Christie only from his appearances on YouTube and cable TV, as most people do, you might think that storyline is true. (Moran, The Star-Ledger)
That other Christie will be a no-show at the Republican convention in Tampa
Just 16 years ago, Gov. Christie Whitman had a starring role at the Republican National Convention, co-hosting the San Diego shindig with a fellow from Texas named George W. Bush.
But when New Jersey Republicans rush to Tampa for the big GOP show next week, Whitman won’t be among them.
“I wasn’t asked to be a honorary delegate and there’s no reason to go if don’t have a particular role,” she told The Auditor. “They’re big rallies and I’m kind of out of step with people who are controlling the rhetoric of the party at this moment.” (The Auditor, The Star-Ledger)
Yudin stirs hornets’ nest with remark on Bergen freeholder slate
During an interview last week, Bergen County Republican Organization Chairman Bob Yudin predicted that the GOP will retain control over the county Freeholder Board in November despite the latest party squabble being played out in the media and the courts.
“I am confident … that we’ll retain our majority by winning at least one of the seats,” Yudin said.
At first blush, the statement doesn’t seem controversial except that the BCRO has backed two candidates for the two available seats, former River Edge Mayor Margaret Watkins and incumbent Rob Hermansen of Mahwah. (Stile, The Record)
New Jersey economy undercuts Governor Christie’s rhetoric
When George W. Bush looks back at himself strutting in front of a “Mission Accomplished” banner in a flight suit proclaiming an end to major combat operations in Iraq more than eight years prematurely, I wonder if he every thinks, “Man, there’s one I wish I could take back.”
That might be what Chris Christie is thinking right about now, as his “Jersey Comeback” seems more like a “rollback” to the terrible economic situation he inherited from Jon “I lost $1.6 billion” Corzine back in 2009. (Tornoe, Newsworks)