Morning News Digest: July 16, 2010

Not ready to declare, Whelan and Polistina circle each other in LD 2 ahead of 2011 The long, slow march

Not ready to declare, Whelan and Polistina circle each other in LD 2 ahead of 2011

The long, slow march toward the 2011 general election begins in Atlantic County, where the Democratic column trudges behind state Sen. Jim Whelan (D-Atlantic City), who’s likely to face an advance of Republicans slogging behind Assemblyman Vince Polistina (R-Egg Harbor Harbor Twp). It’s early yet, so neither man will commit to contending, neither Whelan for the District 2 seat he holds, nor Polistina for the same seat Republicans want him to win. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ) 

Sipprelle touts war chest

Holt still has heavy advantage Republican Congressional candidate Scott Sipprelle will head toward the fall campaign season with $429,000 cash on hand in his 12th District battle with Democratic incumbent Rush Holt, his campaign reported late Wednesday. But while the season is still young, Holt already holds a decided advantage, reporting more than $1 million on hand as of June 30. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ) 

Gov takes aim at supers’ salaries

Having bucked the teacher’s union bronco in April when most municipalities rejected school budgets not containing the governor’s recommended pay freezes for teachers, Gov. Chris Christie today undertook the less strenuous political challenge of targeting that hardly beloved class of professionals known as school superintendents. “The superintendents’ pay situation has gotten out of control,” the governor announced. “While I have great admiration for what they do, most of them have a job not that much more difficult than the governor’s.” (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ) 

Christie says his referendum will come in 2013, not in the coming countywide contests

 The understated presence in the room of Middlesex County GOP Chairman Sam Thompson didn’t cause Gov. Chris Christie to opt for Middlesex over Bergen, Monmouth, Passaic or any other November countywide contest when asked which would provide the best test of his leadership in office so far. “I’ve been a countywide elected official,” said the former one term and out Morris County freeholder. “Just as it was when I ran, those races will be determined by countywide issues.” (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ) 

From the Back Room… 

Agent Orange Commission among state’s most effective 

Among a host of defunct committees that would be wiped clean from the state’s books in a bill passed in the assembly is New Jersey’s Agent Orange Commission, arguably one of the most effective in the state’s history. The commission, formed by Gov. Brendan Byrne in 1980, was tasked to explore the link between Agent Orange, a defoliating herbicide containing Dioxin used extensively by the U.S. military in Vietnam, and health problems among veterans. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)

 Signaling a blow to Booker, Newark Council votes to defer MUA 

The political agony continued this afternoon for Newark Mayor Cory Booker, whose plan to create a revenue-generating municipal utilities authority to help bail out the city’s flailing finances came up against the hard eged of a disapproving council. A majority of the nine-member governing body shot down the mayor’s proposal, with Council President Donald Payne, Jr., At-Large Councilman Luis Quintana, At-Large Councilwoman Mildred Crump, Central Ward Councilman Darrin Sharif and South Ward Councilman Ras Baraka all voting no. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ) 

Poll: NJ credits governor for slashing costs, but worries about impact of cuts

 In a new poll, New Jerseyans give Gov. Chris Christie high marks for reducing state spending. But they’re also worried about the impact of the governor’s cuts. The Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Press Media poll out Thursday finds Christie’s job approval rating at 44 percent. The same percentage disapprove of the job he’s doing. (AP) 

NJ residents give Gov. Chris Christie mixed reviews in poll 

Six months after he took office with a promise to usher in a new era of “lower taxes and higher growth,” Gov. Chris Christie gets high marks from state residents for cutting costs, but mixed reviews on providing property tax relief, according to a new Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Press Media poll. Garden State residents remain divided on Christie’s overall job performance, with 44 percent approving and 44 percent disapproving. Monmouth University Polling Institute Director Patrick Murray said this marks a slight but not significant improvement over his April job performance rating, when 41 percent of those polled said they approved of Christie’s performance, while 44 percent disapproved. (Milke, Gannett) 

Christie seeks cap on school leaders’ salaries

 Gov. Chris Christie today detailed a proposal that would limit base salaries for superintendents and other school administrators based on enrollment while giving merit-based bonuses to leaders of districts that meet or exceed academic expectations. The plan, unveiled by the Republican governor at E. Raymond Appleby School in Spotswood, would cut the salaries of superintendents who make more than a proposed maximum of $175,000. (Rommel, Gannett) 

Senate panel approves bill that would raise liability for N.J. pollution damages to $1 billion

 Calling the BP oil spill disaster a grim reminder of the potential damage caused by industrial mishaps, state Senate Environment and Energy Committee Chairman Bob Smith (D-Middlesex) is sponsoring legislation to update the state’s decades-old oil spill laws to ensure that polluters — not taxpayers — foot the bill in the event of an incident affecting New Jersey. Smith’s committee approved his bill (S-2108) to amend the state’s Spill Compensation and Control Act, making the owner or operator of a major facility liable for up to $1 billion in damages caused by the discharge of petroleum products or other hazardous substances. The current cap, which is $50 million, was set with the law’s enactment in 1976. (Hester, New Jersey News Room) 

 Rutgers tuition to rise 4 percent for in-state students 

Undergraduate tuition will rise by 4 percent in September at Rutgers University, the school’s board of governors decided today. “The recent economic recession has severely limited state government’s ability to provide adequate funding,” said university President Richard McCormick. For the 2010-11 school year, the university said, an in-state, full-time arts and science undergraduate will pay $9,926 in tuition and $2,633 in mandatory student fees. (Baldwin, Gannett)

 Democrats push advocacy group to disclose donors 

Senate Democrats Wednesday said they would introduce a measure to force the advocacy group Reform Jersey Now to disclose donors and abide by state pay-to-play laws. Several of Gov. Christie’s advisers are affiliated with the organization, and the Republican governor attended a $25,000-a-plate event this week that it hosted. (DeFalco, AP) 

Some New Jersey lawmakers uneasy that towns can override tax cap 

When Gov. Christie first proposed his plan to limit property-tax increases to 2.5 percent a year, some Democratic lawmakers objected to a provision that would have allowed voters in individual towns to override the cap. The thinking among the critics was that wealthier towns would approve overrides much more often than less affluent ones, leading to a greater divide between the haves and the have-nots. The experience in Massachusetts, which has had a property-tax cap since 1981, appears to support those concerns. (Lu, Inquirer) 

Ingle: Christie’s ratings higher than Legislature’s 

Gov. Christie’s approval rating stands at 44 percent, which is the same as his disapproval number. The Legislature is worse. The Legislature gets positive job ratings from 24 percent of the public (that’s up from 2o percent in April) and negative ratings from 49 percent (down from 56 percent. The Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Press Media Poll asked responders to assign the governor a letter grade in five different areas. More than 40 percent give Christie either an A or B for controlling costs and cutting waste and bringing ethics and honesty back to state government. (Ingle, Gannett)

Morning News Digest: July 16, 2010