Morning News Digest: July 26, 2010

Good and bad of going private: Past N.J. efforts have been rocky Governor Christie would have private businesses operate everything

Good and bad of going private: Past N.J. efforts have been rocky

Governor Christie would have private businesses operate everything from state golf courses and psychiatric hospitals to New Jersey Network and the Izod Center to help deal with the state’s long-standing financial troubles. The first-term Republican is also vowing not to repeat the costly mistakes made by previous administrations while working with outside vendors. (Reitmeyer, The Record)

 Can NJ keep its pension promises? No way, many officials concede

 Jack Curtis was driving with his wife to the grocery store recently when the 63-year-old elementary school principal from Morris County announced they needed to downsize their retirement dreams. Why? Because the state’s pension system is so far in arrears that Curtis doesn’t think he can count on it anymore. The reality of New Jersey’s pension system crisis is sinking in. (Method, Gannett) 

NJ Transit goes alone: 2 sets of rail tunnels faulted

 Can two rail agencies share a set of new tunnels under the Hudson River to midtown Manhattan and save billions of dollars, instead of building separate tubes under the Hudson River? (Gannett) 

Officials deny any gerrymandering, but state maps suggest otherwise 

 When one thinks of redistricting, the word “gerrymandering” often comes to mind. It is time-worn trickery whereby politicians arrange to have the lines of voting districts drawn to protect an incumbent or to divide the opposition. The word comes from combining the last name of onetime Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry, who redistricted the Bay State to keep his party in power in 1812, and the word “salamander,” reflecting the odd shapes many gerrymandered districts resemble on a map. (Baldwin, Gannett)

 In case you missed it… 

 In Friday flurry Gov. signs three vetoes

 Gov. Chris Christie late Friday afternoon vetoed three bills passed earlier this year that he said would have added an additional $132 million in state spending. Among the bills vetoed was one to restore money to fund Planned Parenthood centers and another that created a $100 million homebuyer tax credit program that would have allowed for up to $15,000 in tax credits. $75 million of the money would have gone to purchasers of newly constructed homes with the remiander available to purchasers of existing homes. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ) 

 Christie vetoes family planning bill 

After nearly a month of waiting and support from several prominent Dmeocrats including Sen. Frank Lautenberg, Gov. Chris Christie has vetoed a bill that would restore family planning funding to the budget. The bill has been championed by several female lawmaker, most notably Sen. Loretta Weinberg and Assemblywoman Linda Stender. The lawmakers had lobbied for weeks for Christie to sign the measure, even finding money to pay for the $7.5 million appropriation. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ) 

 Dems Lead in County Fundraising 

 Democratic County parties have outraised their Republican counterparts by half, pulling in more than $1.5 million so far this year. The state’s 21 Republican county parties have pulled in $863,000 so far and also lag in cash on hand. In total, the Democratic county committees have more than $1.5 million banked, while the GOP holds just over $1 million. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ) 

Government seeks new trial for former Bergen Democratic chief Ferriero 

Federal prosecutors agreed Friday that the corruption conviction of former Bergen County Democratic Organization Chairman Joseph Ferriero should be set aside in light of a recent Supreme Court ruling, but they want a second crack at him in a new trial. In a letter to U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler, Assistant U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig said the court should grant Ferriero’s motion to dismiss the three mail fraud counts on which he was convicted Oct. 22. (Sampson, The Record) 

President Obama coming to N.J. next week 

President Obama will travel to Edison in Central New Jersey on Wednesday to speak about the economy, the White House announced today. A similar visit had been scheduled for May 5, but Obama cancelled the trip to deal with the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. He was last in the state in October to campaign for Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine’s unsuccessful bid for re-election. (Jackson, The Record) 

Former gadfly is a firebrand as new Clifton council member

 She was a thorn in the side of city leaders for years, and now that she’s been elected to the City Council, Mary Sadrakula is not aiming to forge any tight friendships on the male-dominated governing body. One of her first orders of business was to propose eliminating council health benefits, among the few perks awarded to Clifton council members. Not surprisingly, her colleagues were not enthused about her initiative. (Yellin, The Record)

Bergen executive McNerney orders review of troubled agency 

Bergen County Executive Dennis McNerney ordered a top-down review of the Bergen County Improvement Authority’s “business and personnel matters” Friday when he appointed a former superior court judge to examine the county bonding agency. The improvement authority and its chairman, Ronald O’Malley, were implicated in a fraud scheme Thursday when two co-workers at O’Malley’s mortgage brokerage firm said in federal court that they used the authority to defraud lenders. (Gartland, The Record) 

Report gives Christie hope that Atlantic City can be saved

 A report that documented all the reasons why Atlantic City is failing to be a premier resort destination also provided Gov. Chris Christie and his advisers hope that it could be revitalized and once again provide the revenue the state so desperately needs. The report, provided by the Governor’s Office, paints the picture of a city bleeding money as a result of more than just the national recession. Issues of cleanliness and safety, increased gambling competition and the lack of nongaming options all play a role in the resort’s $1 billion casino revenue decline from 2006 to 2009. (Clark, Press of Atlantic City) 

 N.J. Gov. Christie vetoes home buyer tax credit

 Governor Christie on Friday vetoed a bill that would give tax credits of up to $15,000 to home buyers, saying the state could not afford to forego $100 million in tax revenue over the program’s proposed three-year lifespan. The bill, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support late in the spring, would have provided three-quarters of the funding to buyers of newly built homes. (Fleisher, The Record) 

N.J. Gov. Chris Christie vetoes $7.5 million family planning grant

 Gov. Chris Christie vetoed legislation today that would have restored $7.5 million in grants for 58 clinics providing birth control and basic health care to uninsured people, a decision some Democrats lawmakers say they intend to overturn.
Blaming New Jersey “unprecedented financial difficulties,” the governor said the family planning and women’s health clinic grants needed to be scrapped. But uninsured people have other avenues to get these medical services, according to Christie’s veto message. (Livio, The Record) 

Public unions taking a tight-money tack 

The state’s public worker unions are at war with Governor Christie, but they have not ramped up their political spending. The New Jersey Education Association’s political action committee spent $234,788 in the first half of this year, according to reports released Thursday by the state Election Law Enforcement Commission. At this point last year, when there were far more state-level political races, the union had spent $426,200. This year, the NJEA has raised $797,841 and has $1.2 million on hand. (Friedman, The Record) 

Hillsborough committeeman wants residents to tell legislature to pass “tool kit” reform 

 Committeeman Carl Suraci is calling on residents to join an electronic petition campaign to compel the state Legislature to enact Gov. Chris Christie’s “tool kit” proposals. Suraci, also the committee’s finance chairman, said at a recent Township Committee meeting the promised property tax reform comes in two parts: the tax cap — a 2-percent limit on annual property tax increases by local governments and school districts — and “tool kit” legislative reforms. (Sroka-Holzmann, Gannett) 

Group makes progress with feral cats in Atlantic City 

Just as Amanda Casazza and Deborah Calvert stepped out of their van on Florida Avenue near the Boardwalk, it began to drizzle. Undeterred, the duo crossed the wooden planks and headed for the beach, scanning the sand for their friends. “Oh, look, there’s one of them,” Calvert said, pointing to a mostly black cat skidding across the sand toward the underside of the boards. “The rest will come out when they see we brought food.” (Lala, Inquirer) 

From the Back Room…

Obama Heading to God’s Country  

President Obama is planning a trip to New Jersey on Wednesday. According to an advance notice, he’ll make a stop in the Edison area to discuss the economy. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)

 Bayonne to pick Chiappone replacement Monday 

The Hudson County Committee is scheudled to vote Monday night on a replacement for Assemblyman Tony Chiappone (D-Bayonne), who resigned this month after pleading guilty to corruption charges. Chiappone’s most likely replacement is his longtime nemesis, Bayonne Democratic Committee Chairman Jason O’Donnell. But sources say it is likely someone else could also be nominated on Monday, creating at least some drama. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ) 


 Assemblywoman Lampitt: Women’s Health Care: A Critical, Bipartisan Priority 

Each day, New Jersey’s women’s health care clinics deliver critical health care services to the people of our state, people who in many cases cannot afford health insurance and have nowhere else to turn. The single mother who gets screened for breast cancer. The young pregnant woman who gets prenatal care for her baby. Countless young people who do the right thing by getting tested for HIV. The elderly woman who is checked for diabetes. And many more. (Lampitt) 

Moran: Fragmented N.J. Democrats struggle to find leadership, unity with elections approaching 

The phone rang just after 9 p.m. last Friday at the East Orange home of Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver. It was Senate President Steve Sweeney, her counterpart, and he was telling her that the boys in Trenton had struck a closed-door deal on property taxes. Without her. (Moran, Star Ledger) 

 Stile: Christie visit to Bergen will raise cash, calm GOP nerves

 Governor Christie’s budget cuts and his ill-timed (and scuttled) plan to repeal Sunday blue laws have yielded more heartburn than benefits for Bergen Republicans. But next month, he will provide them with a consolation prize, of sorts — himself. (Stile, The Record) 

Ingle: Horses lost, but will the bet on Atlantic City pay off?

 Think of it as a big stakes contest between horse racing and a concept Gov. Christie calls “Las Vegas East”. Ironically, the horses lost by several lengths. But will the winning ticket pay? It is hard to imagine what the state’s taking over a “casino and entertainment district” in Atlantic City would accomplish. “Investors do not want to go to a city they see as unclean and unsafe” the governor said in announcing the project. He’s right. (Ingle, Gannett) 

Ingle: Salary caps coming sooner 

Gov. Christie dropped the hammer on the exorbitant wages superintendents in some of the state’s more than 600 school districts make. That act would hold most to under the $175,000 the governor makes unless they work in the biggest cities or get bonuses. It would take effect with new contracts and maybe by December rules would be in place. Well, this is New Jersey and the expected happened: Word has it superintendents were trying to rush contract extensions through. (Ingle, Gannett) 

Editorial: State must act to revive casinos and tracks 

New Jersey’s gambling industries —- casinos and racetracks —- are suffering and show signs of eventually dying. Change is needed. Gov. Chris Christie, not shy about taking on any and all challenges, announced his plan of action Wednesday. It’s plan provided to him by a seven-member panel who’ve spent the last few months identifying problems and plotting solutions for Atlantic City, horse racing as well as the NewJersey Sports and Exposition Authority (NJSEA) and the Xanadu development at the Meadowlands. (Gannett)

Morning News Digest: July 26, 2010