Morning News Digest: July 9, 2010

Assembly to vote Monday on 2.0%

The Assembly will meet Monday to vote on the 2.0% property tax cap that passed earlier today in the senate, according to sources who are now at the tail end of finalizing the details for the session. There is still no word on whether Gov. Chris Christie had warmed to an 11th-hour pitch by Democrats to consider specific future legislation to improve the 2.0% proposal. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ) 

 Whether in fundraising or on the issues, Christie figures big in Bergen race 

As the legislature winds down, the state battlefront in part shifts to Bergen County, where Republicans are eager to dispatch with the working remnants of a celebrated political machine built by Joe Ferriero and now still operational on behalf of Bergen County Executive Dennis McNerney. In a north country race with statewide implications as the GOP attempts to uplift Gov. Chris Christie longer term in a key county that he almost won last year, McNerney faces County Clerk Kathe Donovan. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ) 

Unions already making presence felt in 14th 

Union money has already begun to make its way into much anticipated 14th District senate race as Linda Greenstein, the Democratic assemblywoman from the district vying to move to the upper chamber, has raised nearly $14,000 from organized labor since the June 8 primary. The teacher’s union is leading the drive with $8,200 in donations to the assemblywoman, who hopes to unseat Republican Tom Goodwin (R-Hamilton) in the November special election. The teacher’s union has been at war with Republican Gov. Chris Christie over the governor’s cuts in state aid to schools and his campaign to have voters reject school budgets in districts where teachers did not agree to a pay freeze. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ) 

Codey separates Doherty and Lesniak in Senate chamber 

Senators Mike Doherty and Ray Lesniak went nose-to-nose in the chamber this afternoon after Lesniak apparently catcalled during Doherty’s presentation. Doherty approached Lesniak’s chair and demanded respect. According to two sources, Lesniak threatened to “pop” Doherty. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ) 

N.J. Assembly to take up tax cap compromise Monday

The state Assembly will vote on a plan to lower the property tax cap to 2 percent on Monday, the leader of the lower house said Thursday.
”We know that the residents of this state want to see tighter restraints put on their property taxes, but we also know our work is far from finished,” said Assembly Speaker Sheial Oliver (D-Essex) in a prepared statement. “This will be a strong step, but concerns about how schools will fit the costs of special education services so vital to many children are among the many areas that will need to addressed going forward.”
(Friedman, The Record) 

N.J. disconnecting nearly 20,000 phone lines in response to report revealing $3.2M waste 

Hello? Anybody home? The state is spending $3.2 million a year on nearly 20,000 unused landlines and mobile phones, according to a comptroller report released Wednesday. That means about one of every six government phone lines isn’t needed. “Examples of government waste don’t get much clearer than that,” Comptroller Matthew Boxer said. (Megerian, The Record) 

NJ senators’ debate nearly turns into fistfight 

Two lawmakers debating school funding today nearly came to blows on the floor of the New Jersey Senate and had to be physically separated. Playing referee was Sen. Dick Codey — one-time governor and former Senate president — who stepped between Democrat Ray Lesniak and Republican Mike Doherty. The disagreement started during Doherty’s speech on education funding. When Doherty said too much money goes to urban areas, Lesniak started to say, “Not true.” (AP)

Assembly hears pleas against property-tax cap

 To impose a 2 percent cap on property-tax increases without addressing what drives up government spending is “the tail wagging the dog,” Cherry Hill Mayor Bernie Platt told an Assembly panel on Wednesday. Collingswood Mayor Jim Maley concurred, warning lawmakers, “The order we’re doing this in is not the best way.” The Assembly Budget Committee heard testimony from representatives of towns, schools, and public employees who repeatedly questioned the effectiveness of the 2 percent cap agreement reached Saturday by Gov. Christie and legislative leaders. (Rao, Inquirer) 

Christie plans to refinance transport bonds 

Gov. Christie plans to refinance $1.4 billion in transportation bonds to keep the Transportation Trust Fund solvent for another year. The fund was set to run out of money by July 2011. The refinancing will generate between $700 million and $800 million for road projects. Treasury Department spokesman Andy Pratt said Wednesday that refinancing was not the governor’s preferred solution but would serve as a bridge to the 2012 budget year. Christie has said he supports a pay-as-you-go approach. (AP) 

Adler and Runyan spar in first N.J. debate

 U.S. Rep. John Adler (D., N.J.) and his Republican challenger, Jon Runyan, sparred over immigration, the war in Afghanistan, term limits, and the proper role of the federal government Wednesday during the first general-election debate in one of the nation’s marquee House races. Adler, a longtime state senator from Cherry Hill, was swept into office in 2008 – the first Democrat in generations to represent the Third District of New Jersey. Runyan, a former Eagles offensive lineman making his first run for political office, hopes to return the district to the GOP amid what polls say is anxiety over the country’s direction. (Fitzgerald, Inquirer) 

Stile: Tax cap lets Christie boast help’s on the way 

Governor Christie was center stage in last weekend’s “Special Session” legislative marathon. And on Wednesday, a relaxed, low-voltage Christie said another performance was being planned. “Bob’s request is that I do a rain dance to get it to rain sometime this week,” Christie said as he stood with Alex “Bob” Puskas, owner of a semi-parched Somerset County farm that included a 20-foot fiberglass Holstein cow, with a crack near its shoulders, standing sentinel in the front field. “I know all of you will be looking forward to that,” Christie said. “We will be putting out an advisory.” (Stile, The Record)

Morning News Digest: July 9, 2010