Morning News Digest: March 5, 2010

In a switch, Christie may end property-tax rebates

Gov. Christie is considering scaling back or eliminating property-tax rebates in his budget proposal, a move that could yield significant savings but would mean going back on a campaign pledge.  As Christie tries to close a projected $11 billion deficit next fiscal year, scenarios under discussion include slashing the popular but expensive rebates, according to two administration officials with knowledge of budget talks. They stressed that no final decisions had been made.

Lawmaker unveils measure to freeze NJ public worker salaries 

A Republican lawmaker introduced legislation Thursday that would freeze the salaries of New Jersey public workers for up to three years and would keep property taxes at current levels. Assemblyman Joe Malone of Burlington County said the continued rough economy necessitated the measures he introduced. (Delli Santi, Associated Press) 

Norcross acknowledges that Runyan willl be tough in this environment

The entrance into the race of former NFL star Jon Runyan has caught state Sen. Donald Norcross’s (D-Camden) attention. “The climate in our country right now makes elections challenging at any level,” says Norcross, when asked if Runyan poses a heart-breaking threat to U.S. Rep. John Adler (D-Cherry Hill). Having won a 3rd District Congressional seat that was in Republican hands farther back than anyone can remember, Adler now looks to try to fend off an energized Republican Party, which looks to be building force behind Runyan. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ) 

Limbaugh loves Christie, but governor is just a RINO to Shaftan 

Even though a poll released yesterday showed Gov. Christopher Christie with a 74% approval rating among Republicans, GOP consultant/pollster Rick Shaftan – the chief strategist for Christie’s main rival in last year’s gubernatorial primary – is still not sold on the governor’s conservative bona fides. 

”This guy should be 90% with Republicans, and he’s at 74%. And you know this is the high point. He’s not going up,” said Shaftan. 

Since winning the election in November, Republican elected officials have heaped praise on Christie — from centrists like Bergen County Clerk Kathleen Donovan to the most conservative legislators in the state, like state Sen. Michael Doherty (R-Oxford), who in January praised Christie’s executive order freezing unfunded mandates. (Friedman, PolitickerNJ) 

Kean backs Gooch for GOP nomination 

State Sen. Sean Kean (R-Wall) says he’s backing newspaper publisher Diane Gooch for Congress. “I’m in her corner,” Kean tells a day after Gooch filed to run in the 6th District. “She’s our best hope.” Kean doesn’t flinch from the money issue. Gooch has got some – her husband works on Wall Street, and she will need to be financially connected to go up against U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-Long Branch) and his nearly $4 million warchest. Also competing for Republican Party backing is Highlands Mayor Anna Little, who has called for an open convention of county committee people. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ) 

Appellate panel: State not required to pay millions toward teacher pensions 

In a ruling against the state’s largest teachers union, a three-member appellate court panel Thursday said New Jersey is not constitutionally required to pay the millions it owes every year into the fund for teachers’ pensions. The decision came amid a fight in Trenton over how to fix the state’s underfunded pension plan — including a proposal that could make full funding a constitutional requirement. The New Jersey Education Association, which represents more than 200,000 workers in the state’s school systems, is considering appealing the ruling, union spokesman Steve Wollmer said. The union sued in 2003 saying their members’ pensions were at risk because the state did not pay its pension bills in full. (Fleisher, The Record) 

N.J. Democrats propose compromise on jobless benefits 

Democrats in the state Legislature have proposed a compromise unemployment fund plan that would lessen an upcoming tax increase on businesses without cutting worker benefits. The plan by Sen. Fred Madden of Turnersville and Assemblyman Joseph Egan of New Brunswick would raise the unemployment tax on businesses by an average of $148 per employee, to $920 a year, up from the $772 per employee they pay now. As it stands now, businesses could see a tax hike averaging $400 per employee beginning July 1. Gov. Chris Christie has proposed trimming jobless benefits by $50 a week to help blunt the business tax. (AP) 

Ingle: Menendez, Kean even in poll 

An early look at a possible 2012 U.S. Senate race has incumbent Bob Menendez and state Senate Republican leader Tom Kean Jr. in a statistical dead heat. Menendez leads 39-38 percent with 17 percent undecided in Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind poll. It also showed 29 percent of voters have a “very” or “somewhat” favorable opinion of Menendez while 25 percent have a very or somewhat unfavorable view of him. Twenty eight percent have a favorable view of Kean and 11 percent have negative views. The poll asked about state Sen. Mike Doherty of Warren County too. Only 20 percent said they have heard of him and he trails Menendez, 27-40 percent. Last time around Kean led Menendez early but Menendez was able to tie Kean to an unpopular president. This time there is a Democrat in the White House. (Ingle, Gannett)

Morning News Digest: March 5, 2010