Today’s news from PolitickerNJ.com

Opposition builds to long-term fund
Gov. Jon Corzine believes his plan to salt away $334 million in a new pot of money to pay for the state’s “long-term obligations” makes good budget sense and will prevent lawmakers from bingeing on one-time windfalls.

Yesterday, however, lawmakers from both political parties questioned whether it would give the governor too much sway over state spending. And they openly wondered if Corzine has the right to squirrel away such a big sum of money “off budget.”

“I see this is a dramatic increase in the power of the governorship in a way that I believe is unwise,” said Sen. Leonard Lance (R-Hunter don) during a meeting of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. “I believe this borders on violating the constitution of this state.” (Joe Donohue, Star-Ledger)

With Crowley upping the ante, Mercer GOP waits

Mercer County Republicans voted to postpone the endorsement of a U.S. Senate candidate tonight and will wait and see if biotech millionaire John Crowley decides to enter the race.

“We have two new candidates, one from Mercer County,” said Mercer County GOP Chairman Roy Wesley. “So it’s almost like we have one of our own who we need to give some consideration to.” (Matt Friedman, PolitickerNJ.com)

Wilson says Lautenberg’s the source

Republican State Chairman Tom Wilson faxed an angry letter to Democratic U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg this morning, accusing his reelection campaign of being the source of today’s Star-Ledger story that quoted a lawsuit related to an intra-family business spat that led to Senate candidate Andy Unanue’s ouster as Chief Operating Officer of Goya Foods. (Friedman, PolitickerNJ.com)

Unanue says testimony untrue
U.S. Senate candidate Andy Unanue says that a Star-Ledger article alleging that he came to work drunk or hung over is false, and says this came from an “uncorroborated source” during a legal battle involving control of his family business, Goya Foods. (PolitickerNJ.com)

Lautenberg watching his left
Former Democratic State Chairman Tom Byrne confirmed today that he’s seriously mulling a primary bid against incumbent U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg.

Byrne, who works as a financial consultant and is the son of former Gov. Brendan Byrne (his full name is actually Brendan Thomas Byrne, Jr.), has already commissioned a poll on his prospects and expects to learn its results by Friday. He’ll make a decision on whether or not to run over the weekend. (Friedman, PolitickerNJ.com)

Bergmanson sets his sights lower
If you can’t change the solar system, try the Statehouse.

That seems to be the approach of a Glen Ridge political figure who last year tried to get Pluto reinstated as a planet and now has launched a new campaign: to recall Gov. Jon Corzine from office.

Carl Bergmanson, an independent who was the Essex County town’s mayor until December, said his long-simmering anger at the Democratic governor boiled over this spring when Corzine proposed municipal aid cuts to small towns. Bergmanson filed a notice of intent with the state Attorney General’s Office — the first attempt to recall a governor in New Jersey since the law allowing it passed in 1995. (Claire Heininger, Star-Ledger)

Curley’s the choice of Monmouth GOP
The Monmouth County Republican Committee tonight nominated Red Bank Councilman John Curley to run for freeholder on a ticket with Freeholder Director Lillian Burry.

Curley beat Holmdel Mayor Serena DiMaso here in the VFW building by a vote of 168 to 103, according to County Clerk Claire French.

“We both worked exceptionally hard,” Curley said of himself and DiMaso. “I know she’s going to continue to work hard to elect the two of us (Curley and Burry) in November.” (Max Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)

Cumberland GOP goes for star power

Cumberland County Republicans will put forth a slate of freeholder candidates that is probably the most well-known group to run in years.

Former Freeholder Director Jim Sauro, Lawrence Township Mayor Tom Sheppard and defense attorney Jim Swift have lined up to run and are expected to be confirmed by Republican leaders this Saturday. (Daniel Walsh, Press of Atlantic City)

Another name in Somerset
The race for the Republican nomination for Somerset County freeholders is heating up, with another candidate in and a spat developing among current members of the all-GOP board.

Bernards Township Committee man John Malay joined the scramble for the backing of party officials for one of the two three-year terms on the ballot this year. (Joe Tyrrell, Star-Ledger)

Burlington freeholders propose tax cuts
Burlington County’s freeholders on Wednesday unveiled a proposed $227.9 million budget for 2008 that reduces taxes and carries the lowest spending increase in 10 years.

The county plans to lower the tax levy for the first time in 15 years, according to the county financial officer. The levy would drop by $113,967, to $162.68 million.

Freeholder-Director Aubrey Fenton said every department shared in the effort to pare expenses. (Carol Comegno, Courier-Post)

Morris freeholders say they have no choice but to rai
se taxes

A $294.3 million 2008 budget that will include a nearly 4 percent hike in county taxes was unanimously approved last night by the all-Republican freeholder board.

The freeholders said they “battled” to keep the increase “as low as possible” without cutting important county services, such as a growing need for home- delivered meals and transportation for the county’s growing population of older residents. (Star-Ledger)

City workers back Romano in Vineland
Mayoral candidate Robert Romano announced Wednesday his campaign has secured another city union endorsement in his run for city hall.

Romano said Wednesday he and his chosen council slate had won the endorsement of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 2215. (Jason Laday, Bridgeton News)

Challengers in Washington Township
A new slate of Democratic candidates has announced a bid to challenge the incumbents for the upcoming local election in which the mayor and two council seats will be open.

Josh Aronovitch, a local lawyer who announced his plans in December to run for mayor, has teamed with Trish Pisauro, 38, and Debbie Cherella, 40, to pursue seats on the council. (Jessica Beym, Gloucester County Times)

Little Falls GOP backs DeFrancisci

Citing his community involvement and high energy level, local Republican leaders have tapped Mike DeFrancisci as the party’s mayoral candidate in the November election.

“He is very aware of the issues, he is involved, he is young and energetic,” said Jayme Alfano, chairwoman of the Little Falls Republican Committee, who voted unanimously last week to support DeFrancisci’s nomination. DeFrancisci was approached by the party only after incumbent Mayor Eugene Kulick declined to seek a third term. (Virgil Dickson, Herald News)

Beck ditches party in Lower Township run

Mike Beck remembers when he first ran for Township Council as a Republican in 1998. He won. Then the offers started coming in.

Beck said one offer was for a free dinner at a popular seafood restaurant. The offer came from an engineering firm that wanted to do business in Lower Township. Beck, who supplied all the paperwork to prove his point, sent the dinner gift certificate back to the engineering firm by certified mail. (Richard Degener, Press of Atlantic City)

Linden councilman glutton for punishment
A Linden city councilman who did not receive an expected endorsement from the local Democratic organization says it was political payback for his failure to campaign hard enough during John T. Gregorio‘s failed 2006 mayoral re-election bid.

Fourth Ward Councilman Derek Armstead believes the Linden City Democratic Committee tossed him from the ticket as punishment for Gregorio’s loss two years ago, and because of Armstead’s recent efforts to reduce unnecessary spending, which he says has ruffled feathers. (Alexi Friedman, Star-Ledger)

Brogan backs down in Montclair
The four-way race for Montclair’s mayoral seat just got less crowded.

Noel Brogan, who since last week’s filing deadline has been jockeying to validate petition signatures for her independent candidacy, said yesterday she is ending her short-lived quest for the mayor’s post. (Philip Read, Star-Ledger)

No more regulation, please
State Sen. Jeff Van Drew has proposed a moratorium on new regulations for businesses in New Jersey.

“I think we’ve gone too far,” he said Wednesday, at a Business Retention summit at Cumberland County College. “There isn’t an industry or business with whom I speak that doesn’t say to me that the state is impeding their progress.” (Matt Dunn, Bridgeton News)

Corzine now seatbelts
Gov. Jon Corzine this afternoon boosted a proposal to require decals or placards on vehicles driven by teens.

Corzine said the recommendation and others from the state’s Teen Driver Study Commission “jive with what makes common sense.”

The Commission released its report with 47 recommendations to the public against the backdrop of the Bakers Basin Motor Vehicles in Lawrenceville, following nearly six months of hearings, research and meetings. (Karen Rouse, The Record)

Katz bashed by CWA
Carla Katz, a prominent state union leader and Gov. Jon Corzine‘s former girlfriend, got a double dose of bad news this month in her struggle with the Communications Workers of America.

National CWA leaders have decided there was no merit to the disciplinary charges Local 1034 officials brought against a local vice president in October, according to a March 20 letter obtained by The Star-Ledger. They had accused Jonathan Berg of violating union rules, leaking confidential information to the press and bringing the local and its leaders into disrepute. (Susan K. Livio, Star-Ledger)

Menendez feels insecure
Saying there is “a vulnerable hole in our security,” U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez called upon federal authorities yesterday to require that all airport employees be screened more thoroughly for bombs and other weapons before being allowed access to airplane cargo holds and other secure areas.

In letters to the heads of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration, Menendez (D-N.J.) said recent incidents at Newark Liberty International Airport “raise serious questions about the adequacy of our nati
on’s airline employee screening procedures.” (Ron Marisco, Star-Ledger)

James judge slaps feds
The judge in the corruption trial of former Newark Mayor Sharpe James chastised federal prosecutors yesterday for withholding from the defense information about a key government witness, and raised the possibility that he may order the developer back to the stand. (Maryann Spoto, Newhouse Newspapers)

Trump pays up
Manhattan real estate mogul Donald Trump plunked down $262,692 Wednesday morning for back taxes on the troubled EnCap golf project.

The check, hand delivered by Trump’s executive vice-president Michael Cohen, staved off a tax lien sale that had been scheduled for 12 noon in North Arlington. Borough officials said EnCap owes them a total of $450,000 on back taxes for 70 acres of land where the developer once planned to build a luxury housing community. (Jeff Pillets, The Record)

Yogi’s wisdom at Delle Donna trial
The corruption trial of Guttenberg’s mayor and his wife continued yesterday with defense attorneys grilling a prosecution witness who admitted lying to the grand jury when he took the stand Monday.

“I don’t remember what I said to my wife when I left this morning,” snapped Guttenberg License and Code Enforcement Official Robert “Yogi” Rogers Sr. under forceful questioning by Ralph Lamparello, the attorney of Mayor David Delle Donna. (Michelangelo Conte, Jersey Journal)

A.C. smoking ban put out
Once again, Atlantic City has crapped out in its efforts to ban smoking in the resort city’s casinos.

The City Council was poised to introduce an ordinance Wednesday that would ban smoking on the gambling floors of all 11 casinos; it would have let gamblers light up only in designated smoking lounges.

But the measure was removed from the agenda by Council President William “Speedy” Marsh, who was angered that last-minute changes to the plan were worked out by several councilmen without his involvement. (Wayne Parry, Associated Press)

Bell, former Stafford mayor, dies
Wesley K. Bell, a former mayor of Stafford Township, died Tuesday evening as a result of injuries he suffered Saturday when he fell from a billboard he owned on Route 30 in Atlantic County. After emergency back surgery Tuesday, Bell went into cardiac arrest and died at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, City Campus, his wife said.

Bell, 70, was trying to repair the billboard when he fell 10 feet to the ground, landing on his back, said his wife, Annmarie. (Donna Weaver, Press of Atlantic City)

Today’s news from PolitickerNJ.com