Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies!
Rivers and seas boiling!
Forty years of darkness!
The dead rising from the grave!
Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!
That about sums up this week in Trenton as pension and benefit reform dominated the conversation. The statehouse nearly imploded with all of the angst and anger on display. But like they always do, some winners and losers emerged from the wreckage.
Gov. Chris Christie
Yes folks, the governor is on the list again this week. The normally bombastic chief executive had the good sense to stay (fairly) quiet this week while Democrats warred amongst themselves over landmark pension and health benefit reforms. In the end the governor got legislation that he can trumpet from here to the White House if he so chooses. Granted, his approval ratings have taken a ding over the past few months as his style outweighed his substance, but make no mistake, the governor scored a big giant W here with his base and beyond.
The Senate president makes no apologies for his role in what some Democrats say was the darkest day in their party’s recent history. While public employees are burning the iron worker in effigy, don’t be so sure their private sector brethren are following suit. Sweeney scored the endorsement of the building trades and construction council a day after the so-called “union busting” legislation passed. Sweeney stepped up and took charge, and in the process showed he can lead a wayward caucus. Of course if the caucus uses their summer break to plot his demise, the big man could well end up a back bencher come November, but for now he stays aboard the W train.
New Jersey Mayors
Who takes the blame when property taxes rise? Mayors. That’s why the League of Municipalities testified at every hearing on the pension and health bill and brought beleaguered municipal chief executives with them. Legislating health benefits means they are now off the table during negotiations, a fact mayors will cheer each time they sit down at the bargaining table.
New Jersey Network
NJN seemed to be in its death throes yesterday as WNET waited anxiously to pull the plug on the state-owned network. But a resolution passed in the Assembly Thursday and an announcement by Democrats that they have included six months of funding in their budget to continue short term operations at the network have given NJN a reprieve. Sources tell PolitickerNJ the Senate will likely pass a similar resolution on Monday. The future remains highly uncertain for the network and its 120 employees, but with sources saying negotiations are underway, for now at least, NJN may live to fight another day.
The cousin of Assembly Majority Leader Joe Cryan scored his W this week in Hoboken, where he was elected Chairman of the Hoboken Democratic Committee.
We’ve been reluctant to put the Assembly speaker on the winners list so far and we’re sure there are Democrats out there who will say she should never appear here again. While Sweeney never wavered in his push for the bill, Oliver seemed to flip-flop overnight. But whether you believe – as most public sector union members do – that it signaled a crushing blow to collective bargaining or agree with the governor that it puts the pension and health systems back on the road to recovery, there is no denying that the legislation passed in her house last night was a game changer. Rumors flared all week that she was in for a coup, but so far she’s weathered the storm. Like Sweeney, Oliver could face repercussions if her jilted caucus members spend the summer brooding, but for now at least she can take a turn on the winners podium.
Leaders of CWA, AFSCME, AFT, NJEA, PBA, FMBA, PFA and IFPTE
Union leadership brought every weapon at their disposal to the fight to derail pension and health benefit legislation, and despite threats, protests and an intense lobbying effort, they failed. Like the legislators they battled, union leaders must face elections to retain their posts. Whether the rank and file will believe fighting the good fight was enough remains to be seen.
New Jersey Hospitals
A clause snuck into the pension and health benefits bill would have restricted the use of out of state hospitals and forced public employees to use in-state facilities. Word was, the bill was a give away to South Jersey political boss George Norcross, chairman of the board of a Camden hospital. Norcross denied it, but the uproar over the provision became so loud that it was finally agreed to yank it from the bill altogether. Administrators loved it, doctors, not so much.
What seemed like a done deal is now in jeopardy after the assembly Thursday passed a resolution nixing the transfer of NJN operations to WNET. The New York-based station was the main reason for the vote as Assembly Reps don’t trust the station to continue New Jersey-centric programming. The Senate is readying for a similar vote and the deal looks to be on the rocks.
Sen. Paul Sarlo and the Democratic budget
Sarlo takes the hit because he is the sponsor, but the Democratic budget took a hit this afternoon when the governor certified his revenue figures. Democrats had been relying on about $800 million in additional revenue to balance their budget, but in an end around that dealt a blow to their plans, the governor certified a figure about $300 million less than the Democrats need. It may be an easy fix, but with less than a week left to get a budget in place every issue is a big one. To cap off the potential budget issues, word circulated through Trenton Friday that some in the party took issue with leadership for not using the pension and benefits vote as a hammer to secure budget items from the governor.