Corzine outlines budget, Republicans fear monetization lurks beneath the surface, House Judiciary subcommittee could call on Christie later on, Kate Whitman makes her campaign official.
WELL THIS IS SURE TO PLEASE EVERYONE
Since he took office, Gov. Jon Corzine has been warning lawmakers that unless they reduced state debt, future budgets would have to hack away at state programs and cause pain for nearly everyone.
Yesterday he showed them how much it will hurt.
The governor unveiled a spending plan for next year that pares property tax rebates, ending them for households earning more than $150,000. It slashes aid to municipalities by $190 million and cuts hospital assistance by $143 million. It eliminates 3,000 of the 68,430 jobs on the state payroll and three Cabinet-level agencies: the departments of Agriculture and Personnel and the Commerce Commission.
It cuts spending in every department and, at $33 billion, is $500 million less than the budget he signed last June.
The reaction from the lawmakers who heard Corzine's proposal in the Assembly chamber in Trenton: dead silence. Not once was his 24-minute speech interrupted by applause.
"There's no sugarcoating it; this is a tough budget," Senate President Richard Codey (D-Essex) said. (Schwaneberg and Donohue, Star-Ledger)
Gov. Corzine, sounding like a tough parent frustrated by a wayward teenager, said yesterday that New Jersey's years of spending beyond its means were over.
Corzine unveiled a proposal to cut the state budget to $32.97 billion, about $500 million below the current spending plan. The governor proposed eliminating the departments of agriculture, commerce and personnel, and cutting at least 3,000 state jobs, mainly through early retirements.
The proposal came after weeks of town hall meetings in which residents, burdened by the nation's highest property taxes and worried about the economy, urged him to cut state spending.
"This must change and this budget is a start," Corzine said in a Statehouse address. "It's certainly not designed to please, but it is a prudent blueprint to meet difficult economic circumstances, correct past mistakes, and lay a foundation for a responsible future." (Lu, Philadelphia Inquirer)
Declaring that New Jersey had reached an irrevocable “turning point” because of years of bad fiscal habits, Gov. Jon S. Corzine proposed a budget on Tuesday that would reduce the state’s work force by 3,000 people, close three departments and prune expenses for services including colleges and hospitals.
If enacted as proposed, the overall state budget would shrink by $500 million to $33 billion, marking only the fifth time in the last 50 years that New Jersey would spend less money than it did the previous year. Assuming inflation this year at around 3 percent, as it has been since 2004, the cut would be equivalent to roughly $1.5 billion, or 4.4 percent of last year’s budget, in real terms.
“Frankly, New Jersey has a government its people cannot afford,” a somber Governor Corzine told a stone-silent group of legislators, lobbyists and local officials in his annual budget address. (Chen, New York Times)
The state's smallest towns — 323 of them — will have to think long and hard about staying small: Gov. Jon Corzine's budget proposes a modest carrot and a serious stick to prod them into joining their neighbors, to reduce operating costs.
The budget Corzine presented yesterday drastically reduces state aid to towns of fewer than 10,000 residents, but offers them a share of $32 million in grants to help them consolidate with other towns or share services. Towns with populations under 5,000 would receive no state property tax relief aid, and those between 5,000 and 10,000 people would see their aid cut in half. (Hester, AP)
Gov. Jon Corzine's proposed budget counts on saving $136 million from the payroll by luring thousands of the state's most senior workers into retirement.
And the governor saves about nine times that amount — more than $1.2 billion — by continuing a decade-long run of underfunding the accounts that are supposed to pay the pensions of the newly retired workers and 700,000 other teachers and government workers.
Those moves help Corzine balance the upcoming state budget, but at a cost of billions of dollars to future taxpayers.
"We carry the weight of 20 years of growing, unfunded pension contributions and post-retirement medical costs for teachers and public employees," Corzine said in his grim budget address. "The borrowing and pension benefits committed to over the past 20 years don't go away. They get more expensive every year." (McNichol, Star-Ledger)
Gov. Jon S. Corzine proposed eliminating the state Department of Agriculture Tuesday as a cost-cutting measure in the proposed spending plan he dubbed a "cold turkey" budget.
"Failing to take on the tough choices will only force New Jersey into a deeper fiscal swamp, and weigh down our taxpayers with more unbearable financial burdens," Corzine said during his budget address delivered to a joint session of the Legislature. "That outcome is unacceptable." (Graber, Gloucester County Times)
HE’S “NOT A STUPID MAN”
Can a prophet of doom also be New Jersey's savior? That's what it's come down to for Gov. Jon Corzine.
After months of delivering increasingly bad fiscal news, Corzine walked into a packed Assembly chamber yesterday to lay out a budget proposal so austere lawmakers waited until the speech finally ended before applauding.
The scene was light-years from a campaign trail not three years ago where Corzine championed big-money programs like universal health care and boosts in medical- research funding. But no one — not even a governor who went from poor farm boy to Wall Street titan — can change the reality of the finance-and-debt crisis facing the state.
"What options did he have?" said Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D- Union), one of Corzine's key advis ers in the Legislature. "He's out of options. I don't have anything bet ter to say than that."
Corzine "is not a stupid man," Lesniak said, and understands vot ers could be turned off by the steady drumbeat of gloom from the Statehouse. He added that Corzine and his team "hope the public sees why all the governors in the past never wanted to deal with this problem and made it worse." (Margolin, Star-Ledger)
Gov. Jon S. Corzine was met with silence Tuesday when he introduced the 2008-09 budget to expressionless state Senate and Assembly members.
Most state office holders quickly exited after hearing Corzine's pitch, which called for $2.7 billion in cuts for a $33 billion total budget.
The governor's fellow Democrats also didn't deny the mild gloom that seemed to hang over the Legislature.
"It's not a lot to cheer about," said Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic. (Previti, Press of Atlantic City)
For New Jersey citizens and politicians, it's put-up-or-shut-up time.
After years of calling for smaller, cheaper state government, the state's residents yesterday got what they asked for. Now they get to see the price tag.
Are residents ready for less government if it means less special education, longer waits for drivers' licenses, higher state college tuition and smaller property-tax rebate checks?
Gov. Corzine said in his budget address he had heard, loud and clear, the public's "frustration and anger" with government spending. His response was a spending plan that is $500 million smaller than the budget of a year earlier. (Nussbaum, Philadelphia Inquirer)
WITHOUT A TOLL PLAN, WHAT WILL THE ASBURY PARK PRESS WRITE ABOUT?
Last week's speculation about the pending death of Gov. Jon S. Corzine's toll road plan may have been premature.
In his 25-minute budget address, Corzine didn't devote much time to that hot-button aspect of his fiscal restructuring plan unveiled last month. It calls for large toll hikes and borrowing up to $38 billion to halve state debt and fund decades of transportation projects.
Corzine acknowledged public frustration and anger with the state's finances but repeated his demand that lawmakers can't just reject his plan without another way to achieve its goals.
"Work with me to develop a plan to pay down debt and fund vital capital investments," Corzine said. "I must say it is not enough to just reject the toll proposal. If you don't like that alternative, give me another viable approach to significantly reduce debt and fund important, vital transportation improvements."
While most have conceded there will be changes, not many are convinced Corzine has scrapped the plan.
"It's not dead," said Sen. Joseph Kyrillos Jr., R-Monmouth, who opposes it. "The toll road plan is in bed, banged up and bruised, but the veiled message here, is "Hey look, we got to do something about debt."' (Volpe, Gannett)
“HE’LL GET HIS SOUND BYTE NOW, BUT WE’LL GET MOST OF OUR FUNDING RESTORED LATER”
Governor Corzine spoke bluntly about cuts. Some of his Democratic colleagues spoke politely in code.
Corzine rehashed one of his familiar themes Tuesday as he unveiled his proposed budget, urging legislators to take the long view and accept his "cold-turkey" cure to New Jersey's fiscal ills.
"What is not acceptable and what we must reject is allowing the state to muddle through, with more of the same shortsighted fiscal patterns that created the mess in the first place," Corzine said in one of his fire-and-brimstone passages delivered without much fire. "Those days are over."………..
But lurking just below the platitudes was their version of the long view. It goes something like this:
We've heard all this before. Give it time. In a few weeks, the special-interest groups will cry foul, social-service groups will accuse the government of callousness, lobbyists and union leaders will work the State House hallways and Corzine will capitulate. He'll get his sound bite now, but we'll get most of our funding restored later.
Take Senate President Dick Codey of West Orange. He applauded Corzine for "sticking to his guns." But while the governor wants to wield the budget knife, Codey called for vetting Corzine's cuts with a "magnifying glass." (Stile, Bergen Record)
IT’S ALL ABOUT HAMILTON
Unlike a lot of hisparty brethren who wereall but lining upto give Gov. Jon Corzine Statehouse high fives following his speech, State Sen. Bill Baroni (R-Mercer),emerged from the Assembly chamber today worried about Corzine's budget proposal.
"The governor's targeting rank and file public employees," said Baroni, referring toCorzine's preliminary proposal toscrap three state departments and eliminate up to 5,000 public jobs through a combination of layoffs and early retirements.
Baroni said that as long as Corzine is willing to keep 50% of the political patronage jobs on the state payroll, the senator could not support what he sees as Corzine's balancing act on the backs of civil servants. Many state workers live in Baroni's hometown of Hamilton, which is adjacent to Trenton.
"He hasn't detailed where the cuts wil be and refers in his speech only to 'targeted layoffs,'" said Baroni, who warned the governor that unless there are greater reductions in patronage jobs, Corzine "could have a fight on his hands." (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)
CHRISTIE MAY HAVE TO TESTIFY SOMEDAY
Christopher Christie, New Jersey's top federal prosecutor, won't be required to testify at a House hearing about so-called "deferred prosecution" agreements — at least not immediately.
Instead, a House Judiciary subcommittee has agreed to hear testimony from a Washington-based Justice Department official about the growing practice, a congressional aide told Gannett News Service Tuesday. The panel hopes to schedule a hearing within two weeks.
Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., who heads the subcommittee, "has not ruled out her prerogative to call Mr. Christie to testify at some point in the future," according to her chief of staff, Michael Torra.
Christie has said he'll testify if the Justice Department asks him to.
At issue is a lucrative contract awarded to former Attorney General John Ashcroft's firm to monitor the settlement of a medical case linked to New Jersey. (Chebium, Gannett)
UNFORTNUATELY FOR WHITMAN, TODDLERS CAN’T VOTE
Kate Whitman has been in the seventh district congressional race three months now, but she made her formal entrance announcement today at a kickoff event at the council chambers nestled in the hills of her quiet, semi-rural hometown of Peapack-Gladstone.
The event was a family affair, attended by her mother, former Gov. Christie Whitman, her husband, brother and young twin sons, while a big portion of the audience was made up of young mothers with towheaded toddlers.
At this point in the race, with eight other candidates in the field, it's hard for the 30-year-old Whitman to claim momentum. State Sen. Leonard Lance easily won an endorsement in his home county, Hunterdon last night. The next convention is Union County, where Whitman concedes that the committee vote will likely be split between former Summit Councilwoman P. Kelly Hatfield and Scotch Plains Mayor Martin Marks. She's hoping that she'll be able to pull off a victory in Somerset, but it's far from a given, considering that there are five candidates from the county in the race, while all three of its legislators have endorsed Lance.
But Whitman said that getting the county line isn't everything, and that she has no plans of dropping out, even if she wins no conventions.
"I'm in it until June," she said. (Friedman, PolitickerNJ.com)
AND THAT’S WHY YOU SHOULDN’T POST STUPID, BORDERLINE RACIST STUFF ON THE INTERNET
ROBBINSVILLE — Township economic development coordinator Dan Gallic tendered his resignation to the township council last Thursday, and Township Administrator Mary Caffrey said she’s disgusted with the haters of Mayor David Fried whose Internet blog floggings have apparently forced Gallic out.
Gallic, a consultant, last month published a racially charged version of the “ant and the grasshopper” parable on the “Conservatives With Attitude!” Web site (www.ConservativeswithAttitude.com).
The NAACP cried foul. Mayor Fried, away on a business trip at the time, apologized “to anyone who was offended” and said he’d deal with Gallic’s future once he got home from Florida. (Yesterday, Fried was away in Central America on another business trip and was unavailable for comment on Gallic’s resignation.)
In the original version of the parable, an ant stockpiled food and fuel for the winter while a grasshopper danced the summer away, only to die in the snows that followed. The moral: Be responsible for yourself.
In the modern version, when winter arrives, the shivering grasshopper summons the media. The media shows the ant in his warm house, full of food. Kermit the Frog appears on “Oprah” with the grasshopper, and everybody cries when they sing, “It’s Not Easy Being Green.” Jesse Jackson demonstrates. Nancy Pelosi and John Kerry tell Larry King that the ant has gotten rich off the back of the grasshopper. There’s a tax hike to make the ant pay his fair share. (Knarr, Trentonian)
Gov. Jon Corzine has appointed former Assemblywoman Elizabeth Randall to hold one of the Republican seats on the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, and has reappointed BPU President Jeanne Fox to another term.
Corzine opted for Randall, who held two cabinet posts in Gov. Christine Todd Whitman’s administration, rather than reappoint Christine Bator. Bator took her seat in 2006 to fill the unexpired term of Carol Murphy. Randall has been out of office since losing a GOP primary for re-election to the Bergen County Board of Freeholders in 2006.
Last month, Corzine named former State Sen. Nicholas Asselta to fill the other Republican BPU seat. Asselta is awaiting Senate confirmation. (Editor, PolitickerNJ.com)
HEY TORRES, YOU GOT OUR SITE’S NAME WRONG!
Polls are considered a mathematical exercise. Some swear polling is a science and others say the results of these paid-for surveys are just the lies that politicians want to hear and then spread among the voting populace.
An example of the work by one of the world's first political pollsters was revealed by, of all people, William Shakespeare. The main character in the Bard's "Macbeth" was happy with his polling firm, the Three Witches, who work best "When the hurlyburly's done, When the battle's lost and won."
Of course they did not deal with percentages and simply told the future monarch: "All hail, Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter!" A declaration of polling results was good enough back then, but if one were to use percentages, it would no doubt be a 100 percent approval rating.
When the poll figures for Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy were leaked Monday to the Web site PolitickersNj.com, the approval ratings of the chairman of the Hudson County Democratic Organization were not as good as Macbeth's, but still breathtaking.
Pollster Joel Benenson has Healy's approval rating at 71 percent to 25 percent, and a 66 percent to 22 percent favorability rating. One presumes we're talking about the higher figures in the range. It wants to make one say, "All hail Healy!"
At Monday evening's Lincoln Day Dinner hosted by the Hoboken Democratic Party, Carl Czaplicki, head of Jersey City's Department of Housing, Economic Development and Commerce, answered a cynical response to the poll by saying the results are a true reading of a popular mayor. "(Healy) is well-liked," he said.
Then again, what happened to Macbeth? More to the point, what happened to former Assemblyman Lou Manzo, whose pollster, the same Benenson, had him taking the 2005 mayoral race? (Torres, Jersey Journal)
On what he called a "beautiful, God-given morning," former Newark mayor Sharpe James arrived at federal court yesterday as jury se lection began for his upcoming cor ruption trial.
Facing a phalanx of reporters and photographers, James arrived shortly after 9 a.m. He remained mainly tight-lipped and sober- faced as he entered the Newark courthouse.
His co-defendant, Tamika Riley, arrived separately a few minutes later, chatting with her lawyer and wearing stylish sunglasses despite overcast skies.
U.S. District Judge William Martini welcomed 131 potential jurors from across North Jersey as they gathered in an assembly room. More than a dozen reporters and spectators, including Riley's mother and brother, watched on closed-circuit television from another room.
After reigning for two decades as one of New Jersey's most flamboyant and powerful politicians, James is now standing trial on charges that could put him away for more than seven years.
"Some of you may have already heard or read about the case," Martini told potential jurors in urging them to disregard the publicity. "Only consider the evidence you hear in the courtroom. That's extremely important." (Whelan and Spoto, Star-Ledger)
IN PASSAIC COUNTY
A Hawthorne Board of Education member and former Passaic County freeholder candidate pleaded guilty in state court Tuesday to getting a job as vice principal in the Paterson school system by falsifying credentials.
Joanne Graziano admitted that she presented a fraudulent document, indicating she was certified to be a supervisor, and collected $61,421 in overpayments on a salary to which she was not entitled from 2000 to 2006.
As part of her guilty plea to theft by deception before state Superior Court Judge Marilyn Clark in Paterson, she will have to pay that money back on a yet-to-be-determined schedule.
Graziano, who was a vice principal in Paterson's School 18, also faces one to five years of probation when sentenced July 11. Under the plea agreement, she must resign her position from the Hawthorne school board and will no longer be allowed to hold public employment in the state of New Jersey. (Petrick, Herald News)
HOW’S THAT FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM?
A college thesis by Michelle Obama about the impact of a Princeton University education on black students was withdrawn from public view for about a week — and neither the university nor Sen. Barack Obama's campaign will say why.
The university said that while the senior papers of former students are typically available to the public, Obama's thesis was "temporarily unavailable" at a university library until yesterday.
"A thesis can be restricted or unrestricted for a variety of reasons including at the request of alumni," said Emily Aronson, a spokeswoman for Princeton. She declined to elaborate, and referred questions to Michelle Obama's press officer, "because it falls within the purview of alumni to discuss their academic work."
A spokeswoman for Michelle Obama also declined to say why the 1985 thesis was restricted at Princeton. But she said the campaign made copies available upon request.
"We wanted to make sure that reporters had access to Michelle's thesis, so we took steps to make it available," said the spokeswoman, Katie McCormick Lelyveld. (Alaya and Mueller, Star-Ledger)
IN WARREN COUNTY
Whether corralling a runaway 1,000-pound heifer at the Warren County Farmers' Fair, overcoming his local party's endorsement of another Republican or facing a combative Democratic opponent, county Freeholder Richard D. Gardner proved nearly indestructible his first five years in office.
But even he didn't challenge Mother Nature on Friday, when he postponed a re-election bid news conference he hoped to hold on George Washington's Birthday. Four days late, but still earlier than any other freeholder candidate, the folksy livestock farmer from Franklin Township yesterday announced he would seek his third three-year term.
It was obvious early on in the news conference that it would be a different campaign than the one in 2005, when a feud between freeholders and local GOP head Doug Steinhardt culminated in the local Republican executive committee endorsing another candidate over Gardner in the primary. Steinhardt was dropped from the county adjuster position, and some charged at the time it was retribution for his failing to step aside to let Chad Chamberlain, Gardner's campaign manager and the son of Freeholder Everett A. Chamberlain, become the local GOP boss. (Frassinelli, star-Ledger)
STUDENT GOVERNMENT MEMBERS PRACTICING PETTY RETALIATION, JUST LIKE IN REAL GOVERNMENT
The editor of Montclair State University's student newspaper says funding negotiations with the student government have broken down.
Montclarion editor Karl de Vries says that means funds for the paper will be frozen once again at the end of the month.
De Vries says the student government's legislature meets Wednesday, and could take up the matter.
Montclarion editors say they're victims of retaliation from the student government over stories critical of closed meetings. Student government leaders say the paper had no authority to hire a lawyer to help them get access to the meetings.
Funding was frozen in January, but temporarily restored to allow publication while the dispute was mediated. (AP)
MCCORMICK STANDS CORRECTED
CAMDEN – Knowingly and willfully.
"These are the two watch-words in this case," defense attorney James R. Murphy told a federal jury Tuesday.
The state, Murphy argued, failed to show that James McCormick knew $3,500 he had wired to a Georgia account was in exchange for his vote while a Pleasantville Board of Education member. Instead, McCormick was a "scapegoat" who was "duped" into voting out an insurance broker he claims he didn't know had a contract with the district. He then helped bring in another broker. This one had been paying off board members as part of an FBI sting.
McCormick and four other former board members were arrested Sept. 6 in the investigation that also captured several public officials from throughout the state and a private Pleasantville resident. McCormick is the only board member who did not plead to the charge of taking money in exchange for support of contracts. The jury began deliberations Tuesday afternoon. (Cohen, Press of Atlantic City)
LET’S CHECK IN ON CRAZY OLD WESLEY K. BELL
Deputy Attorney General Jim Hill said Tuesday that Superior Court Judge John A. Peterson took into account Bell's multiple jailings during the course of the proceedings against him and Bell was not ordered to pay the original amount of $41,000.
Fines of $98,000 from the U.S. Coast Guard were dismissed in November, but the state still sought its $30,000 in pollution penalties. Bell was ordered almost two years ago to remove the Annmarie and the Striper in addition to two other vessels that were in disrepair in the lagoon.
IN ATLANTIC CITY
Efforts by the state to attain authority over the sale of the city's most valuable land asset has resort officials seeking reinforcements.
City Councilman Dennis Mason said Tuesday the city is in negotiations with a Trenton law firm that would act as an agent for the city in its development of Bader Field and combat proposed legislation concerning the site with its team of lobbyists.
Mason said the lobbyists GluckWalrath offers could work against state Sen. James Whelan's push for legislation that would require the city to obtain state approval before any sale or lease of Bader Field. (Clark, Press of Atlantic City)
The city will have a contested election in May, as three candidates formally announced Tuesday that they're running as a slate against the incumbents for the three City Commission seats.
The challengers include Theresa Kelly, a former city school-board president; John Piatt, who ran and lost in Ventnor's last election in 2004; and Stephen Weintrob, a businessman who ran twice for Atlantic County freeholder in the 1980s.
The three are taking on Tim Kreischer, Sandy Vespertino and Joe Schafer. Kreischer is running for his fifth term on the city's governing body and has been mayor since 1996, Vespertino has been a commissioner for 12 years and Schafer is seeking his third term on the commission. He was first elected in 2000.
The officially nonpartisan election is May 13 and no one else has announced plans to run. The filing deadline is March 20. (DeAngelis, Press of Atlantic City)
Former Hopewell schools administrator John Nemeth has been ordered to repay nearly $40,000 in pension benefits he collected last year while working as a consultant for the district.
Nemeth collected the benefits from July through December when he was also being paid $12,000 per month as a consultant to the regional district, a spokesman for the Department of Treasury confirmed yesterday.
Treasury officials ruled that Nemeth was acting as an employee of the district rather than a consultant at the same time he was receiving some $6,500 per month in pension payments.
The order also requires Nemeth to make an undetermined contribution to the state teacher's pension fund for the same six months.
"We rely on IRS guidelines in making the determination as to whether a relationship like this is truly a consulting relationship as opposed to an employer-to-employee (relationship)," said Treasury spokesman Mark Perkiss. "A determination was made that (it was) an employer-employee relationship." (Isherwood, Trenton Times)