Morning News Digest: October 1, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Winners and Losers: Week of the Throw Down at Forked River
A Monmouth University poll out this week continues to show Gov. Chris Christie’s job approval rating solid at 53% against 35% who disapprove. But the governor had to eat some discomfiting headlines after an ABC News reporter tried to question him on the failure of a state program to adequately distribute federal foreclosure relief funds.
There were others with a clearer win/loss week… (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Christie says ‘entire narrative is going to change’ after first presidential debate
Gov. Chris Christie assured a national audience that although polls may indicate President Barack Obama has taken a slight lead in the presidential race, it isn’t over yet.
The governor told David Gregory from Meet the Press that polls can quickly change, and that he fully expects them to after the first presidential debate scheduled for Wednesday. Former Gov. Mitt Romney can handle himself in a debate, Christie said, adding “I think you’re going to start to see those numbers move right in the other direction.”
“Gov. Romney, I know, is going to do a great job on Wednesday night,” Christie said. “I’m telling you David, on Thursday morning the entire narrative is going to change.” (Arco, PolitickerNJ)
High foreclosure rate could put local government credit ratings at risk
The high rate of foreclosure in New Jersey could put local governments’ credit ratings at risk, Moodys Investor Service said in a report issued today.
According to the report, New Jersey’s rate of foreclosure, second highest in the nation behind only Florida, is credit negative for local governments “because abundant foreclosures suppress taxable values, which hinders property tax revenues.”
“Property taxes are the primary revenue source for NJ cities, towns, villages, townships, and boroughs,” the report said. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Christie says Romney will upend presidential race in debate
Republican Mitt Romney will turn his race with President Barack Obama “upside down” with his performance in their debate this week, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said, raising expectations for his party’s White House contender after a “tough couple of weeks.”
Christie and Romney’s running mate, Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, called it a misstep for the former Massachusetts’ governor to say at a fundraiser that 47 percent of Americans “believe they are victims” and feel “entitled” to government support. A secretly recorded video of the comments surfaced this month. (Drajern and Timberlake, Bloomberg)
Analysis: Christie’s revenue bet could pay off
A hard-charging stock market and blooming corporate profits may well bring on the lucrative bonuses that could help narrow or even close the gap between Governor Christie’s optimistic budget projections and the state’s gloomy revenue totals so far this year.
And the tax revenue from those bonuses and other top-end profits could also provide a political context that opens the way for the new income tax credit that Christie has championed.
The good economic news from Wall Street — echoed by analysts last week — matches some of the points Christie has made for the better part of 2012, despite repeated revenue shortfalls, an unemployment rate creeping toward 10 percent and a gap in the last fiscal-year budget. (Reitmeyer, The Record)
Kyrillos needs Romney assist in N.J.’s Senate race
U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez’s re-election bid is made easier by having President Barack Obama at the top of the ballot. But because the Obama campaign can count on winning New Jersey without spending time or money here, Menendez has been campaigning for a second six-year term without the benefit of a national Democratic field operation or the occasional presidential drop-by.
The outcome of the presidential race in New Jersey is even more critical to state Sen. Joe Kyrillos, a moderate Republican who chaired Mitt Romney’s 2008 campaign here and is now trying to defeat Menendez. Kyrillos, who has served 24 years in the state Legislature but is not well-known outside Monmouth County, needs Romney to close the gap with Obama if he’s to have any shot at unseating Menendez. (Delli Santi, Associated Press)
Super PAC money enlivens congressional race in 9th District
Republican Shmuley Boteach’s campaign for New Jersey’s 9th District congressional seat started out as a novelty act. He was the guy with the colorful resume, a rabbi who wrote “Kosher Sex,’’ a man who had been Michael Jackson’s spiritual counselor, the host of a weekly radio program and a reality show about relationships.
But that changed in August when the news broke that Las Vegas casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson and his wife had given $500,000 in PAC donations to support Boteach’s campaign. Suddenly, the Republican National Congressional Committee upgraded Boteach’s status to “Contender,” a designation that held promise for additional support for the campaign against 16-year Democratic incumbent Bill Pascrell. (Malinconico, NJ Spotlight)
Sweeney’s minimum-wage ballot big seen as shrewd
When New Jersey Democrats attempted to legalize same-sex marriage this year, Senate President Stephen Sweeney refused to heed Gov. Christie’s call to let the voters weigh in.
But now, Sweeney (D., Gloucester) wants voters to decide whether to raise the state’s minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and provide for automatic cost-of-living increases in the future, a method that would circumvent the Republican governor.
Christie, who said he opposes automatic increases in the minimum wage rate, called Sweeney’s plan “truly ridiculous” Monday. He urged lawmakers to send him a bill instead. (Farrell, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Booker eyes state run
Newark Mayor Cory Booker is quietly making the rounds at a growing number of New Jersey Democratic functions, fueling speculation that he is building support for a possible run against Gov. Chris Christie in 2013.
A recent appearance was on Sept. 18 here at the annual Mercer County Democratic Committee fundraiser, where about 200 people turned out to hear a 35-minute keynote speech by Mr. Booker that touched on his football career at Stanford University, Mercer’s place in the American Revolutionary War and the importance of Democrats running for elected office. (Haddon, The Wall Street Journal)
NJ merit scholarships program STARS cut as private school option added
Dayton Pierce believes he may have found the best deal in higher education.
When his father lost his job two years ago, Pierce said he was forced to leave Ramapo College of New Jersey after his freshman year because his family could no longer afford the tuition. So the accounting major took advantage of the NJ STARS state scholarship program, which gives top New Jersey students free tuition to county college.
“Without the STARS program, I don’t know what I’d be doing, but I wouldn’t be in college,” Pierce, 21, who is completing his second year at Bergen Community College and plans to transfer to a four-year school, told The Star-Ledger. (Heyboer, The Star-Ledger)
Assembly bill would give adult adoptees access to birth records
Supporters of giving adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates are trying again to win passage of legislation.
Assemblyman Vincent Prieto, (D-32), Secaucus, introduced A3280 this week, which would give such adoptees access to the birth certificates, with some restrictions to protect birth parents’ privacy. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
Red-light camera bill would increase amber light’s duration
The controversy over the red light cameras used in some towns is the subject a bill introduced this week.
A3285 would increase the time the amber light is on at such intersections, and put in place a grace period for violations that occur in the one-half second immediately after a signal turns to red. (Staff, State Street Wire)
Building contractors support state transportation infrastructure bank
A proposal to establish a new state transportation infrastructure bank is receiving backing from contractors, who see it as a means of tapping a new federal transportation financing program.
Legislators reviewed a bill, A-3177 and S-2143, on Thursday that would establish the bank, which would use both state and federal funding to finance highway and transit projects.
“We need to have an infrastructure bank in place,” said Evan Piscitelli, government affairs director of the Utility & Transportation Contractors Association. (Kitchenman, NJBIZ)
Franzini leaves N.J. Economic Development Authority
Caren Franzini ended her 21-year tenure at the Economic Development Authority on Friday, leaving her job — in charge of state grant and lending programs for businesses — for pastures as yet uncertain.
She spent her last day with the Tri County Economic Development Summit, which honored the Atlantic County native for her work in South Jersey.
Michele Brown, a former assistant U.S. attorney who has served as Governor Christie’s appointments counsel since January 2010, takes over from Franzini on Monday. At the same time, EDA is reviewing the agency’s stable of programs with an eye toward possible changes and tailoring of programs to fit a newly strategic focus within the state’s economic-development operation. (Fletcher, The Record)
Fine Print: State control of Newark schools in court
What it is: The first legal briefs have been filed in the appeal of the Christie administration’s recent decision to retain control of New Jersey’s largest school district. Appellants contend that the administration manipulated the process that would have started shifting the schools back to local oversight. The state has moved to dismiss the appeal outright, at this point on mostly technical grounds.
What it means: The challenge before the state appellate court sets the stage for the legal system to weigh in on an explosive situation that the political system has failed to resolve for the past decade. The court battle comes at a time when the district is in the national spotlight for its school reform efforts being guided by the state, as well as the $100 million gift from Facebook founder mark Zuckerberg. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Where are the banks for New Jersey’s poor and elderly?
One in four New Jerseyans either is without a bank account or conducts some or all of his or her finances outside the mainstream banking system, according to a recent report from the
Advocates say that operating outside the mainstream banking system costs the poor and low-income seniors money in extra fees and interest and makes it tougher for them to get credit for housing, automobiles, and other purchases. That makes social mobility difficult, contributing to economic inequality. (Kalet, NJ Spotlight)
Christie takes on Democrats and the dead
I don’t take Governor Christie for a Green Bay Packers fan. If he were, that might explain why he was in combat mode last week. After speaking the language of rapprochement at the Republican National Convention, Christie is sounding less the diplomat and more the general.
The bipartisanship that brought about great changes in the state’s pension and public-employee benefits packages, caps on municipal spending and tenure reform are a thing of the past. Something has gone sour. (Doblin, The Record)
Koch Brothers’ rep for Christie has a few bones to pick
David and Charles Koch, the right-wing industrialists who are pouring millions into a super PAC in support of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, are big fans of Governor Christie.
David Koch virtually gushed when introducing Christie to a closed-door gathering in Colorado last year, saying “I’m really impressed and inspired by this man.”
Bogota’s Steve Lonegan, the Koch Brothers’ top representative in New Jersey, doesn’t share their enthusiasm. (Stile, The Record)
Gov. Christie’s mixed history with Brzezinski-Hoffer family
Gov. Chris Christie never fails to get a fawning reception from Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski when he appears on the MSNBC program “Morning Joe.” But not everyone in the Brzezinski household holds the Republican governor in such high regard.
Christie tangled with Brzezinski’s husband, Jim Hoffer, of WABC in New York, at a news conference Tuesday in Long Branch when the TV reporter challenged how the administration distributed foreclosure funds. (The Auditor, The Star-Ledger)
No more ‘Mr. Nice Guy’ for Gov. Christie
Bolstered by positive polls and go-get-’em crowds, Gov. Chris Christie has made a resolution about his demeanor with Democrats.
The man with the reputation as the most no-nonsense Republican governor in America is going to get tough with his Democratic adversaries in the Legislature, who he feels are not moving quickly enough on a host of ethics reforms and his desired tax cut.
“I’ve been nice up to this point,” Christie said during a town hall meeting in Lacey on Thursday. (Schoonejongen, Asbury Park Press)