Morning News Digest: Monday, July 18, 2011
By Missy Rebovich
Winners and Losers: Week of the aftermath of the aftermath
If you couldn’t summon an outpouring of emotion over the floor speeches of state Sen. Brian P. Stack, Sen. Sandra Cunningham, and Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz this week, you’ve probably been around this game too long. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Breaking: Dems and GOP agree on Farmer as 13th member
The consensus choice by Republican and Democratic members to be the 13th member of the congressional redistricting commission is John Farmer, Jr., former attorney general and counsel to the 911 commission. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Christie, Democrats to discuss restoring up to $139M in aid to N.J. cities
Negotiations between Gov. Chris Christie and legislators on restoring up to $139 million for New Jersey’s neediest cities are likely to begin this week, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.
Christie stunned local officials across the state when he cut funds for struggling cities from $149 million to $10 million with one of his budget vetoes, all but eliminating the emergency aid. (Rizzo, The Star-Ledger)
Assembly Democrats call hearings on cuts
Democrats in the Legislature have struck out so far trying to undo some of Gov. Chris Christie’s budget cuts for the new fiscal year but pledge to continue taking swings at it during Assembly hearings scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday.
The lower house’s Democrat-controlled Budget Committee in the first session Tuesday will listen as members of the public and representative of groups detail how the governor’s cuts may affect programs that serve children, caucus leaders said. On Thursday, the topic will be programs for senior citizens. (Jordan, Gannett)
Gov. Chris Christie recounts tale of N.J. pension overhaul during closed-door meeting at National Governors Association
At the end of a private lunch on Friday, Gov. Chris Christie took the opportunity of having about two dozen governors in one room to recount the story of New Jersey’s fight to overhaul pension and health benefits.
He had not piped up once during the public sessions of the National Governors Association meetings over the weekend. But in a closed-door meeting in a ballroom at the Grand America Hotel, other governors say Christie’s story stretched for more than 15 minutes, with each detail recounted. (Gibson, The Star-Ledger)
Pensions to strain revenues for state
New Jersey’s new pension reform will save state and local governments millions of dollars now, and billions of dollars over the ensuing decades.
But then there is the hard part: actually paying the pension contributions for nearly 800,000 state government employees and retirees.
Although New Jersey will have to pay less than it would have without the changes, state revenues still must grow by at least 3 percent a year simply to cover the added costs for increasing payments, a Gannett State Bureau analysis shows. (Method, Gannett)
Time runs out to use school aid windfall for property tax relief
When Gov. Chris Christie last week detailed his final state aid figures for 2011-2012, they included an extra $150 million for suburban school districts — money the districts were encouraged to use for property tax relief.
The governor should have added, “And hurry.”
In a follow-up memo late last week, the administration indicated that districts would need to move by tomorrow if they wanted to add the extra money to next year’s tax levy. Doing so would require local boards to meet beforehand, with 48 hours notice. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Diane Allen faces electoral challenge following redistricting
Sen. Diane Allen is as bulletproof as New Jersey legislators come.
The Burlington County Republican’s skate back to the State House this fall could get bumpy, though, thanks to competitive match-ups for Assembly seats in her district.
Post-redistricting, the 7th legislative district now lies entirely in Burlington County. The loss of Camden County towns including Pennsauken — where retiring Assemblyman Jack Conners lives — and district addition Joseph Malone’s decision not to run again created an open seat. (Roh, Gannett)
Assemblywoman Jasey taking park in White House forum on older suburbs
Assemblywoman Mila M. Jasey (D-Essex) will take part in a panel discussion at the White House on Monday billed as the “Forum on First Suburbs, Inclusion, Sustainability and Economic Growth.”
Jasey is one of a group of 140 municipal, business and community leaders from around the country who have been invited to participate in the forum. (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)
Marijuana for patients remains off-limits
Irvina Booker makes a most unlikely criminal. She lives in constant pain, disabled by multiple sclerosis and arthritis, a grandmother whose limited mobility depends on her walker, her daughter and marijuana.
“I never smoked it before I got sick, and I don’t smoke it for fun,” said Ms. Booker, 59, who lives in Englewood, N.J. She would not divulge how she obtains her marijuana, but said, “I don’t want to be sneaking around, afraid someone is going to get arrested getting it for me.” (Peréz-Peña, The New York Times)
N.J. leaders clash over bill that would decrease municipal oversight of apartment buildings
Landlords across New Jersey would reap significant financial savings and face much less scrutiny under a bill that would take municipalities out the business of inspecting apartment buildings.
Supporters of the measure say it would eliminate redundancies and unnecessary costs, but municipal leaders contend that halting local inspections would provide a giveaway to landlords who wield influence in Trenton and leave tenants vulnerable to substandard conditions. (Renshaw and DeMarco, The Star-Ledger)
Balanced budget rule splits N.J. delegation
A proposed balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, which President Barack Obama argues is unnecessary, has drawn a mixed response from New Jersey’s congressional delegation.
Amending the Constitution requires two-thirds majorities in the House and the Senate and approval from three-fourths of the states — a process that could take years. Alternatively, two-thirds of state legislatures could call a constitutional convention to consider one or several amendments, but that’s never been attempted. (Chebium, Gannett)
Panel that issues Hanson report returning for another year
One year after issuing a report that has defined Governor Christie’s goals for the state’s sports and entertainment industries, Jon F. Hanson says, “We still have work to do.”
That’s why Christie recently issued an executive order adding another year to the term of the New Jersey Gaming, Sports and Entertainment Advisory Commission, with Hanson again at the helm. (Brennan, The Record)
New Jersey colleges earn money on credit card deals
A deal to market credit cards bearing Rutgers University’s name earned $562,637 for New Jersey’s flagship public university last year, according to a recent Federal Reserve survey.
That was the largest amount that a New Jersey college or university earned last year through agreements allowing credit card companies to market “affinity” cards to alumni, the survey showed. (Chebium and Tumulty, Gannett)
New Jersey stiffens penalties for killing police, rescue dogs
People who intentionally kill police dogs or dogs involved in search and rescue operations are now facing stiffer penalties in New Jersey.
Gov. Chris Christie recently signed legislation that mandates minimum five-year prison terms – with no chance of parole – for such offenders, who also will face fines of as much as $15,000. Previously, the maximum sentence they faced was three to five years in prison. (Shipkowski, Press of Atlantic City)
Growth in solar still strong in New Jersey
There’s been a lot of debate over the future of New Jersey’s growing solar market in recent weeks, but the latest results of a utility-led solar installation program may put to rest concerns that its best days are behind it.
The program, involving utility-sponsored solar installations financed by long-term contracts with customers, locked in deals to develop 21 megawatts of solar capacity. More contractors bid to participate in the program than ever before in a solicitation held last month. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
$27 million in tax breaks to UBS Financial Services to save jobs in Jersey City and Weehawken
New Jersey awarded a $27 million tax break to UBS Financial Services Inc. last week to prevent the company from moving some 2,000 employees in Jersey City and Weehawken out of the state. The mayors of both municipalities are breathing a sigh of relief. (Zeitlinger, The Jersey Journal)
Latest from State Street Wire
Lesniak optimistic Urban Transit Hub Credit bill will be signed
Municipal officials and lawmakers are optimistic one of the more popular economic development tools – the Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit program – will be inked by Gov. Chris Christie in the coming week. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
Proposal seeks to tax ‘flavored malt beverages’ in N.J.
The prevalence of so-called hard lemonade-type alcoholic drinks in the marketplace has prompted legislation to try and tax their production process.
S3011, sponsored by Sen. Joseph Vitale, (D-19), Middlesex, would create a new taxable category of alcoholic beverages called “flavored malt beverages.’’ (Mooney, State Street Wire)
Assembly slates hearing to examine budget cuts to nursing homes, seniors
The Assembly Budget Committee has scheduled a second hearing for next week in response to Gov. Chris Christie’s budget vetoes.
A hearing scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday will focus specifically on $29.65 million in cuts to programs and services for senior citizens and nursing homes. (Staff, State Street Wire)
Lautenberg, Menendez want DOT to release $450M for Northeast Corridor rail work
U.S. Sens. Sen. Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, both D-NJ, have asked federal Transportation Department Secretary Ray LaHood to release $450 million that will used to improve rail lines that serve Amtrak and NJ Transit riders. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
Tom Hanks will not save Jerry Ryan
Elections have consequences. If you don’t believe me, ask Bergen Community College President G. Jeremiah “Jerry” Ryan. But you better do it quickly. Unless Tom Hanks is leading a band of brothers to Paramus, it is doubtful anyone can save this particular Ryan. (Doblin, The Record)
In case you missed it:
Gov. Christie unusually quiet at National Governors Association conference in Salt Lake City
He participated in a landmark forum between American and Chinese governors. He attended three meetings at the National Governors Association annual summer conference.
But Gov. Chris Christie, usually a talkative political rock star at events that draw national attention, was uncharacteristically quiet Friday. (Gibson, The Star-Ledger)
Doherty, Kyrillos set up ‘classic’ GOP primary fight to challenge U.S. Sen. Menendez
There are no campaign signs, no television ads, no babies to kiss. But next year’s U.S. Senate race is quietly shaping up, and could result in a drawn-out Republican primary.
State Sens. Joseph Kyrillos and Michael Doherty are jockeying to be the Republicans’ choice to tangle with U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, a Hudson County Democrat with a knack for raising money and winning elections. (Megerian, The Star-Ledger)
‘Long and difficult’ road to recovery for N.J.
Dig in, New Jersey.
The road to economic recovery will be “long and difficult,” according to .
The Garden State’s job growth has been anemic compared with border states. As New Jersey added 100 jobs a month over the past year, New York saw 5,300 more jobs a month and Pennsylvania added 5,900 jobs a month, the report said. (Fleisher, The Wall Street Journal)
Study: N.J. to have highest density of millionaires by 2020
Right now, Philadelphia and New York are showing high growth rates among High Net Worth Individuals – those people with at least $1 million in investable assets — but one study says the future is looking pretty bright for New Jersey. (Holt, New Jersey Newsroom)
Lewis candidacy remains in limbo
The political wrangling could continue until fall for Carl Lewis, the nine-time Olympic gold medalist who wants to compete as a Democrat for a seat in the New Jersey Legislature.
Republicans have challenged his bid for office, saying he lost the qualifying heat by failing to meet the state’s four-year residency requirement. Lewis, a New Jersey native, owns homes in his home state and California . (Delli Santi, The Associated Press)
Companies warn Christie against power subsidies
A letter to the governor’s office last week opposing new subsidized power plants was signed by 14 “New Jersey” companies, but most were big, national companies, and the two signatories with headquarters in the state said they weren’t familiar with the issue. (Caroom, The Star-Ledger)
Big shifts lie ahead for N.J. Medicaid
Elderly and disabled Medicaid patients and the people who care for them are facing some of the biggest changes in the history of the government insurance program as a result of the new state budget. (Washburn, The Record)
Local legislators rail against Christie budget vetoes
Democrats in the Legislature haven’t cooled much in the two weeks since Gov. Chris Christie exercised his line-item veto power to slash nearly $1 billion from the state budget. (Scott, Gloucester County Times)
Charter schools battle shifts to affluent suburbs
Matthew Stewart believes there is a place for charter schools. Just not in his schoolyard.
Mr. Stewart, a stay-at-home father of three boys, moved to this wealthy township, about 20 miles from Midtown Manhattan, three years ago, filling his life with class activities and soccer practices. But in recent months, he has traded play dates for protests, enlisting more than 200 families in a campaign to block two Mandarin-immersion charter schools from opening in the area. (Hu, The New York Times)
Bugs, filth, hazards plague nearly half of N.J. boarding homes
Nearly half the boarding homes that house some of New Jersey’s most vulnerable residents — including the elderly and the mentally ill — were cited for being insect-infested, dirty or unsafe over the past two years, a Star-Ledger review of state inspection records has found. (DeMarco, The Star-Ledger)
Woodbridge mayor creates ‘Drop a Ton’ program, challenging residents to lose weight
Mayor John McCormac wants to shed a few pounds, and he doesn’t want to do it alone. So he’s offering prizes to any township resident who can lose weight more than he does. (Haydon, The Star-Ledger)
One year later: Progress made in Tourism District, but much work remains
The average visitor may not notice many changes in Atlantic City this summer.
On a recent Saturday night, the Boardwalk was packed with people finding the things they always expect in Atlantic City: restaurants, shopping, clubs, headliners and, of course, gambling. (Previti and Froonjian, Press of Atlantic City)
Pennsauken transit center could boost Atlantic City’s train connection to New York
New Jersey transportation officials hope a construction project in Camden County will have a big impact on the Atlantic City Rail Line.
Last week, NJ Transit approved the final phase of a $32 million transit center project at the site in Pennsauken where Atlantic City trains cross a light rail line that runs along the Delaware River between Camden and Trenton. (Froonjian, Press of Atlantic City)
Governors gag over D.C. dysfunction
In the eyes of America’s governors, Washington D.C. has hit a new low.
State executives have long vented about the shortcomings of the Beltway mindset, carping that the federal government is too partisan, too fiscally irresponsible and out of touch with the citizens back home. (Burns, Politico)
NFL lockout could hurt N.J. financially
Millions may be lost in taxes, parking fees.
New Jersey’s taxpayers would join the Giants, Jets and their players in losing millions of dollars if the National Football League season is scrapped this fall. (Brennan, The Record)
In case you missed it: Opinion
Loquacious Booker zips lips on cuts by Christie
Democrats railed last week against Governor Christie’s “mean-spirited” line-item vetoes.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker is a Democrat. And his city was hit hard by Christie’s cuts.
So what has Booker said about those cruel cuts? Not much, not even a 140-character tweet from New Jersey’s Twitter King. (Stile, The Record)
Gov. Chris Christie’s pension and health care reform a gift to liberals
Gov. Chris Christie’s budget cuts are so harsh toward vulnerable people, you wonder what he could do for an encore.
Bite the head off a live sparrow? Club a baby seal? Kick Grandma’s walker out from under her? (Moran, The Star-Ledger)
WNET-owned station that succeeded NJN still a work in progress
To paraphrase former Mayor Ed Koch of New York, how is it doing? The consensus on the reincarnation of New Jersey’s television station falls somewhere between a work in progress and change the channel. (The Auditor, The Star-Ledger)