A look at which Democrats oppose monetization, Republicans kick off their own town hall meetings, Stile thinks Gov regrets pig imagery, Stack decides that he doesn’t want to show up and play nice with the HCDO.
DEMS ON THE BALLOT NATURALLY OPPOSE MONETIZATION
One way of determining which Democrats will oppose asset monetization is to look at who’s on the ballot this year.
Assemblywoman Linda Stender, who’s running for congress in the seventh district, is opposed to the plan. So is State Sen. John Adler, who’s running for congress in the third district. And U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who’s up for reelection this year, announced that he’s against it last week.
“Linda Stender is opposed to Governor Corzine's toll hike,” said Stender campaign manager Ed Oatman. “While Linda agrees that efforts to reduce our state debt and ending the practice of spending beyond our means must be made, it is unreasonable to penalize residents and businesses that solely rely on thoroughfares such as the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway.” (Friedman, PolitickerNJ.com)
HANDS ACROSS AMERICA REDUX?
Congress has nothing to do with tolls on the Turnpike, yet New Jersey candidates for the House and Senate are running against — and away from — Gov. Jon Corzine's controversial plan to fix the state's finances through toll hikes that he admits will be painful.
The three contenders for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate — Anne Evans Estabrook, state Sen. Joseph Pennachio (R-Morris) and Murray Sabrin — all have denounced the governor's toll plan. Estabrook's campaign is sponsoring a Web site with an online petition opposing the plan.
Two Republican contenders for the seat that Rep. Michael Ferguson (R-7th Dist.) is leaving have denounced Corzine's plan and challenged their likely Democratic opponent to do the same.
Capitalizing on growing public opposition to the plan, which Corzine has been promoting in meetings in all 21 New Jersey counties, Republicans kicked off their own series of town meetings last night at Warren Hills High School to call for alternatives.
For those who follow New Jersey politics, all this is very reminiscent of 1990, when a then-little-known former Somerset County freeholder named Christie Whitman took a state issue — anger over Gov. Jim Florio's $2.8 billion in tax increases — and came within 2 percentage points of unseating U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.). (Schwaneberg, Star-Ledger)
“OH BOY, WHAT A SHOCK THAT WAS”
Few were surprised when Gov. Corzine announced over the weekend that he would no longer seek to add tolls to Route 440.
"Oh boy, what a shock that was," joked Senate President Richard J. Codey, alluding to widespread speculation from day one that Corzine ultimately would leave Route 440, which connects New Jersey to Staten Island, toll-free.
The question now is what other compromises the governor might consider as he tries to get his financial restructuring plan – including his toll-hike proposal – through the Legislature.
Corzine's plan calls for raising tolls on the New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway, and Atlantic City Expressway by 50 percent plus inflationary increases in 2010, 2014, 2018 and 2022. After 2022, tolls would increase every four years until 2085 to reflect inflation. (Lu, Philadelphia Inquirer)
ARE PIGS AIRBOURNE?
Democratic senators today said increasing the state's gas tax and cutting state spending could ease Gov. Jon S. Corzine's proposed highway toll increases.
With opposition building to toll increases unveiled on Jan. 8, alternatives are being weighed by lawmakers.
The governor wants to pay off at least half of $32 billion in state debt and fund
transportation for 75 years.
To do that, Corzine wants to increase tolls 50 percent in 2010, 2014, 2018 and 2022. The increases would include inflation adjustments and, after 2022, tolls would increase every four years until 2085 to reflect inflation.
Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union, said the 2022 increase could be eliminated by
increasing the state's 14.5 cents per gallon gas tax by 10 cents now and five cents in 2013. Doing so, he told The Associated Press, would allow the state to pay for
transportation work for decades. (AP)
STILE: GOV SHOULDN’T HAVE CHOSEN PIGS
The flying pink piggy is no biggie.
That's pretty much Governor Corzine's blithe defense of his now famous "pigs will fly" quip in his State of the State speech, which unveiled his plan to pay off the state's multibillion-dollar debt through a series of toll hikes.
"Pigs will fly over the State House before there's a realistic level of new taxes or spending cuts that can fix this mess," he declared.
Well, they did fly during a rally in Trenton last week against his proposal. And now some veteran Democrats fear the phrase — and more and more flying swine at more and more protests — will sear into the public memory the way toilet paper did nearly two decades ago when Gov. Jim Florio's now-infamous $2.9 billion patchwork of new taxes included Charmin and Scott Tissue.
Here's the symbolic problem: Pigs are easy targets for political theater. Pigs represent bloat and government "pork barrel" spending. Pigs are often used to depict greedy politicians bursting out of three-piece suits. Pigs make good costumes for protesters who have little patience for or faith in Corzine's plan. (Stile, Bergen Record)
WHAT’S IN IT FOR STACK?
The Hudson County peace agreement was meant to be formalized in Jersey City today, with virtually every major elected official in the county coming together the put the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO) together again.
This morning, citing scheduling conflicts among several officials, the HCDO postponed the event to an unspecified time next week. But multiple sources say that the real reason the presser was cancelled was because the most important player – Union City Mayor and State Sen. Brian Stack – refused to attend.
Hudson County Democratic Organization Executive Director Craig Guy said, however, said that Stack did not refuse to attend the press conference.
"It was a logistical problem that prevented us from doing it today," he said.
The HCDO has been fractured since Stack broke off to form the Democrats for Hudson County (DFHC) last year, culminating in a bruising legislative primary that split loyalties– with Rep. Albio Sires and Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner joining Stack’s side. (Friedman, PolitickerNJ.com)
JERSEY CITY'S "LEGISLATIVE RESEARCH OFFICER"
The private attorney representing Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy in his Bradley Beach appeal has blown two deadlines for filing court papers, a court official said yesterday.
The attorney – brother of the city's top lawyer – is also a retired Jersey City cop who was put back on the city payroll last May as a part-time, $46,000-a-year "legislative research officer."
According to Tammy Kendig, spokeswoman for the New Jersey Judiciary, Philip J. Matsikoudis sought and was granted two court extensions to file briefs on behalf of Healy, who, for the second time, is appealing his conviction last June for resisting arrest and obstruction of administrative law.
Matsikoudis – whose brother is City Corporation counsel Bill Matsikoudis – blew a Jan. 2 deadline, and then whiffed on a Jan. 31 file date, Kendig said.
Philip Matsikoudis said yesterday he believed he had asked for an extension "two days before Jan. 31" and was granted "(an extension of) 10 days or so." Reminded a 10-day extension would have expired, Matsikoudis said "it might have been 14 days."
According to Kendig, Matsikoudis wasn't given a new extension.
"The current scheduling order is in effect for Jan. 31," Kendig said. "No additional extensions have been requested." (Thorbourne, Jersey Journal)
The endorsement war in the 7th Congressional District is moving into full swing as eight GOP rivals hoping to succeed Rep. Mike Ferguson look to line up support before the Republican county conventions.
Hunterdon County Sen. Leonard Lance is proving the Trenton brotherhood often can trump geography. In Somerville yesterday, Somerset County's legislative delegation, Sen. Christopher "Kip" Bateman, along with Assembly members Denise Coyle and Peter Biondi — Biondi briefly flirted with running for the House seat Ferguson is vacating — threw their support behind Lance.
The Somerset endorsement came after Union County Sen. Tom Kean Jr.'s announcement last week that he would support Lance over two of his home-turf candidates. Those candidates are former Summit Councilwoman P. Kelly Hatfield and Scotch Plains Mayor Martin Marks. Hatfield did receive endorsements from Kean's GOP colleagues, Assemblymen Jon Bramnick and Eric Munoz.
But before Lance could make any more inroads into the eastern front of this sprawling district, Hatfield announced a slew of endorsements from municipal officials representing eight of the 16 Union County communities in the 54-town district.
Over the weekend, candidate Kate Whitman, daughter of former Gov. Christie Whitman, released a list of backers ranging from Somerset County Clerk Brett Radi and Freeholder Rick Fontana to local officials from eight of the 17 Somerset County towns in the district. (Gluck, Star-Ledger)
EAST BRUNSWICK, N.J. — The first snide outburst came, as usual, a few minutes into the program when Gov. Jon S. Corzine, relying on a PowerPoint slide show several font sizes too small, spoke about New Jersey’s fiscal woes. “Stop lying!” someone blurted.
Mr. Corzine, in his trademark blue sweater vest, soldiered on, pacing the stage here at East Brunswick High School on Sunday afternoon as he has at 13 locations around the state since Jan. 12. Then, after suggesting that voters would have a chance to vote him out of office in November 2009, there was so much heckling that he had to stop.
“You know, it would be nice if we could be civil so the people who want to listen actually get a chance,” he said, in one of his best-received lines of the day.
Night after night, and sometimes at weekend matinees, a remarkable experiment in democracy is unfolding across New Jersey, and the unlikely star of this one-man display in political masochism is Mr. Corzine, who was a very successful bond trader at Goldman Sachs before becoming its co-chairman. But now, this well-meaning Prof. Harold Hill has something he desperately wants to sell. (Chen, New York Times)
THE ANTI-MONETIZATION PARTY
As Gov. Jon Corzine held his 13th town hall meeting to explain his toll-for-debt plan, Republican lawmakers last night launched their own series of meetings to sound off against it.
The likely Senate sponsor of the plan, meanwhile, said it would be better to start the toll increases immediately, rather than wait until 2010, to get road projects moving while saving on long-term costs.
"We should just go ahead and do it," said state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union). "The need is there now."
The first of 15 public meetings planned by Assembly Republicans drew an audience of about 125 people to Warren Hills High School in Washington Township.
"We strongly, adamantly, 100 percent disagree with Governor Corzine's toll plan, and we intend to inform the public why," Assemblyman Michael Doherty (R-Warren) said to start the meeting.
Art Sheninger, 60, a retired school administrator from White Township, said he came to the Republicans' meeting with an open mind about the governor's proposal.
"I give him credit for saying we have a problem. I think he has to take some action. I really don't believe his proposal is the right one to solve this problem," Sheninger said. He said he also wanted to hear more specifics from the Republicans about how they would solve the state's fiscal problems. (Donohue and Frasinelli, Star-Ledger)
WASHINGTON TWP. | Marsha Marasco already spends $100 a month in tolls commuting to her job as a commercial Realtor near the Meadowlands in Bergen County.
Under Gov. Jon S. Corzine's fiscal restructuring plan, which would sharply raise tolls on state highways to pay down state debt, the Washington Township resident expects that to more than double while her business dwindles.
"I feel, we the middle class, are being punished for this," Marasco said during a town hall meeting Monday night at Warren Hills Regional High School.
It was the first in a series of Republican forums hosted by Assembly legislators to counter Corzine's statewide meetings with their message: There's money to be had, you just have to cut, cut, cut.
The Republicans are calling for no bonding without voter approval, budget cuts totaling more than $1.7 billion and pension reforms estimated to save hundreds of millions of dollars, according to the presentation.
"The governor of New Jersey is going to do this and he's going to send you the bill," the chairman of the tour, Assemblyman Michael Doherty, R-Warren/Hunterdon, said to an audience of about 125 people. (Satullo, Express-Times)
THE ROAD SHOW CONTINUES
GLASSBORO – South Jersey residents gave Gov. Jon S. Corzine a civil reception Monday during a town meeting in which he touted a plan to sharply increase highway tolls in order to chop state debt in half and bankroll transportation projects over the next 75 years.
Corzine explained his financial restructuring and debt reduction plan Monday at Rowan University here, his 13th of 21 county meetings on the subject.
About 300 people attended the meeting. Unlike other meetings, there were no protesters.
The governor said his plan will make the state face up "to the depth of our problems."
"We've misspent, overspent and irresponsibly borrowed over a number of years," said Corzine. "We have serious problems in the state and to ignore them is irresponsible." (Ridgway, Courier-Post)
NO SNIDE COMMENT HERE
On the eve of her long-delayed trial on federal tax fraud charges, the former chief financial officer for real estate developer Charles Kushner pleaded guilty yesterday in a scheme to illegally write off millions in gifts, entertainment expenses and political contributions as business expenses.
Marci Plotkin — indicted nearly three years ago on charges of conspiracy, fraud and obstruction of justice involving the preparation of tax returns for several of Kushner's real estate partnerships — admitted to a single count of conspiracy to defraud the government.
Her trial was set to begin later this week, along with Richard Stadtmauer — Kushner's brother-in-law and closest associate. Kushner himself pleaded guilty to witness retaliation, tax and campaign violations in August 2004 and served less than two years in prison.
A wealthy developer and benefactor who gave millions to charitable, religious and philanthropic organizations, Kushner leveraged his companies and extensive real estate holdings into a potent political force. He used his partnerships to funnel millions in campaign contributions to dozens of high-profile candidates, before an acrimonious feud with his brother Murray led to a federal investigation. (Sherman, Star-Ledger)
WERE LEGISLATORS DRUNK WHEN THEY APPROVED THIS?
Amid an escalating controversy, Mothers Against Drunk Driving urged Gov. Jon S. Corzine on Monday to block Route 23 from being named after former U.S. Rep. Robert A. Roe.
The highway honor for Roe — who was intoxicated when he crashed into a minivan in Rockaway Township in 1993, seriously injuring a woman and her 15-year-old daughter — has been drawing fire from critics, who called it inappropriate.
Assembly Transportation Committee chairman John Wisniewski, a Democrat from Middlesex, said he hadn't known about the accident when he co-sponsored the bill and added that most lawmakers were probably in the dark before voting to approve the legislation.
With the Roe signs not yet installed, MADD executive director Mindy Lazar asked Corzine to halt the dedication. (Jennings, Daily Record)
BUT WHEN WILL STATE EMPLOYEES BUY FURNITURE AND MATTRESSES?
The state is taking today off for Lincoln's Birthday. And there's another state holiday next Monday, which is Presidents Day.
The leader of the Assembly Budget Committee says that doesn't make any sense.
Assemblyman Louis Greenwald (D-Camden) wants to remove Lincoln's Birthday from the roster of state holidays — and move it to the day after Thanksgiving. He says it would bring the holiday schedule "more in step with the real world."
"Lincoln's Birthday serves no practical purpose other than to give state government back-to- back four-day work weeks," said Greenwald. "Lincoln's Birthday has been left unrecognized by schools and the private sector and has even been absorbed on the federal calendar by Presidents Day. It is time for the state to drop this anomaly of a holiday." (McNichol, Star-Ledger)
OH LOOK, PEOPLE ARE MAD AT CORZINE
Gov. Jon Corzine's announcement that he won't support a rail line into Middlesex County from Monmouth and Ocean counties drew angry responses yesterday from Monmouth officials, who have been pressing that option as the best of three alternatives.
With a new survey showing overwhelming support for the Mon mouth Junction option and a formal recommendation of a route still months off, Corzine's comments were decidedly premature, Monmouth County Freeholder Director Lillian Burry said.
"It was improper for the governor to have commented on the alternatives being studied in the draft environmental impact statement before the study is completed and before a locally preferred alternative is chosen," Burry said.
Burry said eliminating the Mon mouth Junction line would hurt residents in all three counties, because it closed mass transit options to people trying to reach specific colleges, medical institutions and job centers. (Spoto, Star-Ledger)
THAT’S JUST WRONG
It costs nothing to register to vote in New Jersey.
But one cannot register online.
Ignorance of those two facts has two state agencies examining what looked like mischief in the run-up to last Tuesday's presidential primary.
It seems a commercial Web site convinced an undetermined number of people to pay $9.95 each to fill out a form on their computer screens in the belief they were registering to vote.
The state offers the same form for free, but it must be hand-signed and mailed in.
In at least three cases known to state Public Advocate Ronald Chen, people who used the service went to vote, only to be turned away by poll officials who accurately said the three had never registered. (Baldwin, Gannett)
The Senate budget committee's leader Monday requested overtime audits of three state agencies after reports that a sergeant who supervised payroll at a juvenile justice facility had collected $428,000 in overtime over a decade without following proper procedure.
The request comes a day after Gannett New Jersey reported that Sgt. Kimberly Gerald was suspended for 10 days for not submitting the same requisite overtime slips for herself that she oversaw for others. The Juvenile Justice Commission pushed for a 60-day suspension but had no proof that Gerald didn't legitimately work overtime.
Gerald's union and legal representatives said Gerald thought she was properly reporting her pay records and legitimately earned all the overtime she collected. The state even provided her a laptop to work from home, they said. (Volpe, Gannett)
IN ATLANTIC COUNTY
Folsom Mayor Tom Ballistreri got the jump on other potential Atlantic County Board of Chosen Freeholder candidates Monday, announcing that he's running for one of two at-large seats that will be contested this year.
Ballistreri, a Republican who has spent the last nine years as Folsom's mayor, said he wanted to "get out and let my intentions be known."
"The earlier, the better," he said.
Also on Monday, Hamilton Township Committee became an all-Republican panel, as the board's lone Democrat – Nelson Gaskill – switched parties.
Gaskill said he decided to switch parties because he was being ignored by the township's Democratic leadership and Republicans offered him a chance to "express my opinion without any fear of retribution." (Barlas, Press of Atlantic City)
IN MIDDLESEX BOROUGH
The former business administrator for Middlesex Borough has filed suit against the town arguing that he was improperly ousted from his job and is owed compen sation.
Ronald Dobies previously served as the Middlesex mayor for 26 years before resigning to become the borough administrator two years ago. But his $85,000-a-year position was eliminated from the borough budget during a vote in December by the borough council.
Dobies filed a lawsuit Thursday arguing the council did not follow the correct procedure for terminating a borough employee. The council was required to pass a resolution with a two-thirds majority ordering his removal, according to the lawsuit filed in Superior Court in New Brunswick. (Adarlo, Star-Ledger)
The president of the Hardyston school board has chosen not to resign and now faces a recall election in April.
"I really want to finish out my term. I will not resign and I'll never give up," Marbeth Boffa said yesterday, three days after the deadline for submitting a letter of resignation and avoiding a recall vote in the April 15 school board election.
School board secretary Linda Alvarez said she had validated 1,252 petition signatures submitted by the Committee to Recall Margaret "Marbeth" Boffa after hearing various challenges from both sides on the validity of some of the signatures.
The recall committee needed 1,137 signatures — 25 percent of registered voters — to place the recall question on the ballot. (Moczczynski, Star-Ledger)