NJ Politics Digest: Some Good Financial News for a Change

New Jersey moved up in a FOrbes ranking. Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Not all the economic news coming out of New Jersey these days is bad (although much of it is). Forbes found that the state had a notable increase in its American Dream Index score.

It’s increasingly apparent that the battle over who gets to be the next speaker of the state Assembly could have an impact on the November general election, with the strategist overseeing all the Democratic legislative efforts resigning from the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee.

And Democratic gubernatorial front-runner Phil Murphy dropped a surprise on Wednesday, announcing that if he wins the primary next week, he will limit his spending in the general election to $13.8 million — and apply for public matching funds.

Quote of the Day: “Trouble in paradise.” – Ricky Diaz, spokeman for Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, after Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto lost his top campaign strategist.

New Jersey, Montana Rise On Forbes American Dream Index; Tennessee, Missouri Drop
New Jersey’s economy has struggled in recent years with slow growth and underfunded government pension funds. Last week Moody’s Investor’s Service warned that the state is at risk for deep deficits in the coming years with New Jersey’s tax receipts not able to cover its bills. Moody’s rates New Jersey’s general obligation debt at A3 after the latest downgrade in March, second worst among all states behind Illinois. It is the 11th downgrade under Governor Chris Christie across the three rating agencies. It is a record for any state governor.
Kurt Badenhausen, Forbes Read more

Trump’s Justice Department Investigates Possible Discrimination Against Muslims
In what could be a significant test of President Donald Trump’s relationship with a religious minority he antagonized on the campaign trial, WNYC has learned the U.S. Justice Department is investigating whether a New Jersey town discriminated against local Muslims by denying their application to construct a mosque, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey.
Matt Katz, WNYC Read more

Top Strategist for Assembly Dems Resigns, Takes Staff, Blasts Prieto
Michael Muller, the political strategist who had been running all legislative races for New Jersey Democrats this year, has resigned from a political committee run by Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto and taken his whole staff with him.
Salvador Rizzo, Observer Read more

Bon Jovi, Whoopi back Phil Murphy in Morristown
Rocker Jon Bon Jovi and Oscar-winner Whoopi Goldberg mingled with Morris County Democratic leaders Wednesday during a private fund-raiser for gubernatorial front-runner Phil Murphy at the Hyatt Regency Morristown.
William Westhoven, Daily Record Read more

In Reversal, Murphy Agrees to Cap Spending in the General
After dropping $20 million on the Democratic primary for governor, Phil Murphy announced Wednesday that if he wins, he would limit his spending in the general election to $13.8 million and apply for public matching funds.
Salvador Rizzo, Observer Read more

NJ Gov Race: Murphy Passes $20M in Spending
Phil Murphy has spent $20.1 million on his campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor, according to a new report by the state Election Law Enforcement Commission.
Salvador Rizzo, Observer Read more

Trump’s expected withdrawal from climate pact could have dire consequences for New Jersey
Rising sea levels would destroy hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of property along the Jersey Shore and North Jersey riverbanks. Warmer temperatures would prolong droughts, tax water supplies and damage New Jersey’s $1 billion farming industry. And extreme storms like Hurricane Sandy would become more frequent.
Scott Fallon, The Record Read more

Advocates urge N.J. to provide legal aid to detained immigrants
A coalition of immigration advocates, law professors and private attorneys are calling for New Jersey to provide legal assistance to detained immigrants facing deportation.
NJ.com Read more

Voters guide: 2017 New Jersey primary election
New Jersey’s 2017 primary election will be held on Tuesday, June 6. Here’s what you need to know about the races, candidates and getting to the polls.
Emily Babay, Inquirer Read more

Colleges commit to revitalizing 5 NJ cities, including A.C.
Nineteen of the state’s public and private colleges and universities have signed agreements to help revitalize the cities of Atlantic City, Camden, Newark, Paterson and Trenton.
Diane D’Amico, Press of Atlantic City Read more

Kushner deal shines spotlight on Jersey City’s struggling inner city
Oak Street is less than a three-mile drive from the new Trump Bay Street tower but it feels like another world entirely.
Terrence T. McDonald, The Jersey Journal Read more

Why marijuana activists are worried about NJ’s legalization plan
Though New Jersey could be less than a year away from voting to legalize marijuana, advocates who have pushed for that aren’t thrilled with proposed legislation that envisions a tightly regulated market and a tax that would eventually reach 25 percent.
Michael Symons, NJ101.5 Read more

Commuters Facing 90-Minute Train Delays; NJ Transit Blames Amtrak
Rail commuters in New Jersey can expect delays of up to an hour and a half on some days this summer as Amtrak makes urgent repairs to tracks at Penn Station, according to testimony taken Wednesday at a hearing of a special legislative committee investigating a rash of NJ Transit derailments and delays this year.
Alyana Alfaro, Observer Read more

New Parkway toll will be cashless after only 3 people objected to plan
Drivers who use the new Exit 125 ramp from the Garden State Parkway south to Sayreville better bring their E-ZPass or risk a fine, after officials finalized a cashless toll plan.
Larry Higgs, NJ.com Read more

Drag queens will read to kids at Cherry Hill library, and it sounds like fun
The Cherry Hill Public Library plans to host “Drag Queen Story Time” to celebrate LGBT Pride Month.
Kevin Riordan, Inquirer Read more

Atlantic City Electric pays $79M to harden system from storms
Atlantic City Electric is poised to spend $79 million over five years on its electrical network, work needed to lessen the impact of storms and reduce outage restoration times.
David P. Willis, Asbury Park Press Read more

State trooper charged with covering up harassment of women
Investigators say a New Jersey state trooper pulled women over to pressure them into having a personal relationship with him and then tampered with records to cover that up.
Associated Press Read more

Trooper who hit and killed Westfield teen won’t be charged with crime
An off-duty State Trooper who struck and killed a teenage girl in March will not face criminal charges, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Sergio Bichao, NJ101.5 Read more

GOP Senator Offers Gender Pay Legislation, But Weinberg Won’t Support It
It’s been nearly six months since women marched in Washington, D.C., Trenton, and throughout the country in support of women’s rights. But a push to improve New Jersey’s pay-equity protections still remains a work in progress.
John Reitmeyer, NJSpotlight Read more

Renewed Push to Tackle and Tame Out-of-Network Medical Bills
Hoping to jump-start what they consider a comprehensive reform, a diverse group of healthcare and business advocates have called on Democratic leaders to vote this week on a long-debated bill to reduce the growing impact of out-of-network medical insurance bills.
Lilo H. Stainton, NJSpotlight Read more

Wallington sued after removing business administrator for over-purchasing 22,000 gallons of gas
The outgoing Wallington Business Administrator has filed a suit against the town and four council persons claiming retaliation over his political affiliations after he was removed from that position due to him allegedly over-purchasing 22,000 gallons of gas.
Jaimie Julia Winters, The Record Read more

Editorial: No surprise cigarette sales rise in Jersey
New Jersey was slated to receive $7.5 billion, its share over 25 years from the federal tobacco settlement of over $200 billion reached in 1998. Tobacco companies cut a deal with 46 states to settle lawsuits. Instead of taking its share over 25 years, New Jersey opted for fast cash and a lesser immediate payout of more than $3 billion. The state burned through it like a chain smoker on a non-filtered cigarette. Now, state legislators are in a snit because cigarette tax revenues are rising. Go figure.
The Record Read more

EDITORIAL: ELEC website changes boost transparency
Newly designed websites can generate a surprising amount of angst among users who don’t always take kindly to change. Learning to navigate the altered site, no matter how many improvements are involved, can be a source of frustration to those accustomed to everything a certain way.
Asbury Park Press Read more

Editorial: What these N.J. officials really owe Muslims is an apology
After blocking a Muslim group from building the town’s first mosque and getting scolded by a federal judge for it, Bernards Township has agreed to pay $3.25 million in damages and attorneys’ fees.
Star-Ledger Read more