Morning News Digest: July 28, 2011

Morning News Digest: Thursday, July 28, 2011

By Missy Rebovich

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Christie: President ‘speaking in platitudes’ on debt standoff; no plan

Asked by Michael Aron, back on the beat, whether he would preach his brand of bipartisan compromise to House Republicans, Gov. Chris Christie said he would not limit his advice just to the GOP.

“Washington is the greatest example of the wrong way to do this,” Christie said. “We have to stop yelling and screaming at each other.”  (Carroll, PolitickerNJ)



In LD 2 joust with Polistina, Whelan says pay for redevelopment advisor job was justified

The issue of public dime work continued to dominate the 2nd District today, as Assemblyman Vince Polistina (R-2), Egg Harbor Twp., attacked state Sen. Jim Whelan (D-2) of Atlantic City for collecting $6,000 as secretary to the mayor a decade ago, suggesting Whelan didn’t do anything to earn the money, but people close to city government said Whelan did advise on a development project gone bust.    (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



Christie takes swing at Obama

Republican Gov. Chris Christie, fresh off his return from a trip to Iowa, sounded more like a presidential candidate than a governor on Wednesday as he criticized President Barack Obama on the continuing debt showdown.

The first-term governor, a rising GOP star who has been encouraged to run for the White House, said the president has spoken only in platitudes and needs to offer a written plan on how to avoid a potentially calamitous government default.  (DeFalco, The Associated Press)



N.J. residents will be hurt regardless of outcome of debt ceiling talks, analysts warn

No matter what the outcome of Washington’s negotiations on raising the debt ceiling is, one thing is certain: New Jerseyans, as most Americans, will suffer.

State officials and economic analysts said that of the two possible scenarios — neither is good.

The tense and bitter discussions are virtually certain to result in a U.S. government default or a compromise that slashes at least $1 trillion in federal spending — and both would have dire consequences for New Jersey at a time when it is trying to cope with Gov. Chris Christie’s steep budget cuts, a 9.5 percent unemployment rate and a sluggish recovery from the deep recession.  (Rizzo, The Star-Ledger)



Default could have widespread impact in NJ

Thousands of New Jersey retirees may not get their Social Security payments on time and state residents could see interest-rate hikes on credit cards, student loans and mortgages unless Congress raises the national debt limit by Aug. 2, officials say.

Billions in federal payments to states could be suspended or eliminated, affecting everything from Medicaid to NJ FamilyCare to small-business loans, according to the Obama administration, congressional lawmakers and nonpartisan groups.  (Chebium, Gannett)



Political links and a jail bid in North Jersey

Three weeks ago, Essex County, N.J., announced that it was seeking a company to run a 450-bed immigrant detention center, hoping to take advantage of a federally financed initiative to set up such facilities with better supervision and medical care.

The county said the contracting process was open to any company. But behind the scenes, it appears that officials have a clear favorite: Community Education Centers, which has a checkered record in immigrant detention but counts one of Gov. Chris Christie’s closest confidants as a senior vice president.  (Dolnick, The New York Times)



N.J. Democrats ask for transparency from groups supporting them

One New Jersey, a liberal advocacy group that is accepting unlimited and anonymous donations, is coming under increasing pressure from the Democrats it was created to help.

State Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) on Wednesday became the latest Democrat to ask the organization to disclose the identity of its donors.

The veteran lawmaker said keeping donors secret is “completely wrong and should be immediately corrected.”  (Megerian, The Star-Ledger)



NJ Legal Services: 2 of 3 poor clients go unserved

Two-thirds of those who contact Legal Services of New Jersey and qualify for its help are not being assigned lawyers because the agency doesn’t have the money to meet the demand, its president told legislators Wednesday. Melville Miller Jr. told an Assembly Judiciary panel examining state budget cuts that he expects to lay off 100 staff members, close at least three offices and serve 10,000 fewer clients than last year because Gov. Chris Christie cut the agency’s appropriation by $5 million for the budget year that began July 1. The cut comes atop a $9.7 million reduction last year.  (Delli Santi, The Associated Press)



SIG grants go to nine of New Jersey’s lowest-performing schools

Nine of New Jersey’s lowest-performing schools will each receive up to $6 million in federal School Improvement Grants. The so-called SIG grants, which are distributed and overseen by the state Department of Education (DOE), are intended to jolt schools into making radical changes.

Under the program, the qualifying schools are required to pick from several strategies, including replacing principals or half of their teaching staffs, or both.  (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)



Teacher swap quashed

When Newark’s public school system accepted $5 million from the federal government last year to turn around the poorly performing Malcolm X. Shabazz High School, it agreed to replace at least half of the school’s teachers, under the belief that principals could then hire better ones.

Instead, Shabazz swapped teachers with two other failing schools.  (Martinez, The Wall Street Journal)



Fine Print: How and where to spend $81.8 million

What it is: The Elizabeth schools will receive $81.8 million of the $447 million ordered by the state Supreme Court for New Jersey’s high-poverty schools in its latest Abbott v. Burke ruling. It is by far the largest amount, double that of Newark’s. Approved by the local board last Thursday, this is the supplemental budget the district submitted to the state for spending the money in 2011-2012. The state’s final decision is pending.  (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)



Runyan employs lessons of football in halls of Congress

Rep. Jon Runyan, freshman Republican from South Jersey, slipped into the crowded, phone-booth-size reception area of his Longworth Building office on a recent morning, looming over aide Kara Webster, who was eating forkfuls of steamed vegetables between phone calls.

“What’s going on?” he said, then stopped and wrinkled his nose. “What’s that you’re eating? It smells like sauerkraut or cabbage or something.”  (Fitzgerald, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



Ventnor asks Gov. Chris Christie to order forensic audit on past finances

Ventnor Commissioner John Piatt is now directly asking Gov. Chris Christie for assistance in conducting a forensic audit of the city’s finances prior to 2008.

“For a number of years the electorate of the city of Ventnor has suspected foul play regarding the manner in which the city’s finances were conducted,” Piatt wrote in his letter to Christie’s office, which he sent out Wednesday. He added that he had previously requested an audit from the state but had been turned down.  (Lemongello, Press of Atlantic City)



Medicaid fraud seen, $100 million is paid back

More than $100 million believed to have been fraudulently billed to New Jersey’s Medicaid program has been returned to government coffers after an investigation by the state Comptroller’s Office.

Comptroller Matthew Boxer said anti-fraud investigations found about $116 million in improper Medicaid payments over the last year – almost one-third more than the year before.  (The Associated Press)



N.J. group gets $1.7M in federal funds to help low-income veterans find permanent housing

Two New Jersey organizations that help low-income veterans get permanent housing will receive $1.7 million in federal funds to help approximately 360 military families throughout the state, two senators announced today.

Community Hope Inc. in Parsippany will receive nearly $1 million to assist 140 households in Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex and Warren counties.  (Dinges, The Star-Ledger)


NJ environmental group files lawsuit against EPA

The Environmental Protection Agency has been sued by a New Jersey-based environmental group that claims the federal agency has failed to take action against New Jersey over stormwater runoff issues.

The Delaware Riverkeeper Network filed its lawsuit Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Trenton.  (The Associated Press)



USPS reviewing 50 outlets in N.J. for closure

Fifty retail outlets in New Jersey face possible closure as the U.S. Postal Service looks to cut costs. The locations under study include Dividing Creek in Cumberland County; Goshen in Cape May County; and Stafford, Harvey Cedars, and Long Beach in Ocean County.

The Postal Service, which lost $8 billion last year, announced Tuesday that it was looking at closing more than 3,600 of its more than 31,000 local offices, branches, and stations nationwide.  (The Associated Press)



Tea Party activists stand firm on debt-ceiling rift

The Tea Party has heard loud and clear the government’s claim that failure to raise the debt ceiling will result in a crisis. It has heard experts talk about rising interest rates, a plummeting stock market, a return to recession.

And it has a ready answer: Good grief.

“We’re not going to default on the debt,” said Connie Sherwood, a Berkeley resident and a founder of the Ocean County Tea Party. “It is a scare tactic. It truly is a scare tactic.”  (Diamond, Gannett)



$500 million deal at Port Newark may bring 800 jobs

With New Jersey’s unemployment rate outpacing the nation, Gov. Chris Christie visited Port Newark on Wednesday to tout a $500 million deal that could lead to 800 new jobs.

The deal with Port Newark Container Terminal, made in June, calls for a 20-year extension of the terminal’s existing lease through 2050, subject to PNCT’s investment of $500 million.  (DeFalco, The Associated Press)



NJ activists square off over anti-pollution pact

One of New Jersey’s most vocal climate policy activists says clean energy technology is the key to staving off economic decline in New Jersey. Another says the state simply can’t afford higher energy costs. They both agree the future of New Jersey is at stake.

The two squared off Wednesday over whether the state should remain in a 10-state pact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, during a debate at a community center in Teaneck.  (Lederman, The Associated Press)



Utilities say they can help state cut power consumption, boost reliance on renewables

If New Jersey is going to meet its goals to reduce energy consumption and increase its reliance on solar power and other renewable energy sources, it is clear that the state’s utilities want to be part of the effort.

In their first public comments on the state’s revised Energy Master Plan, several gas and electric utilities embraced its overarching goals — reducing energy costs, promoting a diverse balance of generating sources, and striving to attain the 22.5 percent goal of having electricity produced from renewables by the turn of the next decade.  (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)



FAA shutdown leaves hundreds of William J. Hughes Technical Center employees and contractors unpaid

Karen Vargas is keenly aware that the Federal Aviation Administration is heading into Day Six of a shutdown that has left hundreds of local employees unpaid. That’s because 14 employees from her Galloway-based business, A3 Technology Inc., have been left without work.

That’s significant for a company with just 35 employees, she said.  (Bogdan, Press of Atlantic City)



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Law school programs under budget cuts by state

It isn’t just the Legal Services of New Jersey that will be hampered by  Gov. Chris Christie’s budget cuts.

Some $200,000 was sliced from three law school clinic programs at Rutgers University-Newark, Rutgers University-Camden and Seton Hall University Law School.  (Hassan, State Street Wire)



$1.7M being awarded to help homeless war veterans in New Jersey

The Department of Veterans Affairs will award $1.7 million in federal funds to community organizations that will help find housing for homeless war veterans, U.S. Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez said today.

The two groups that will receive the funds are Charities Dioceses of Camden Inc. and Community Hope Inc. in Parsippany, through the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) Program.  (Staff, State Street Wire)



Over $116M in improperly paid Medicaid funds recovered, comptroller’s office reports

The state Comptroller reported today that it recovered more than $116 million in improperly paid Medicaid funds during the past fiscal year.

The funds, which were disclosed via audits and other reviews of Medicaid providers, included pharmacies, day-care facilities, and medical equipment companies, according to the Comptroller’s office.  (Staff, State Street Wire)



From the Back Room 



Gallup: Perry is Romney’s strongest potential challenger

This morning’s Gallup Poll shows that former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney is the leader for the GOP Presidential nomination among the current field of official candidates, supported by 27% of Republicans, compared with 18% for U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN.).  (Staff, State Street Wire)






Christie’s shadow looms over 38th District

As hard as the consultants argue otherwise, this November’s contest in the Legislature’s District 38 is about one name that is not on the ballot — Governor Christie.

Yes, technically the two legislative slates will be led by incumbent Democratic Sen. Bob Gordon of Fair Lawn, and Republican challenger John Driscoll of Paramus, the Bergen County freeholder director.  (Stile, The Record)



Christie v. Leno: Whose head is bigger?

Elaine on Seinfeld thought she had one. Birds flew into it like they just couldn’t avoid it. She said she was a walking candy apple.

But that was all in her (ahem) head.

When it comes to real-world craniums, however, it is acknowledged that Tonight Show host Jay Leno has the mother of all cabezas. So leave it to Leno to produce a segment on his show to find out who might have a larger head than he.  (Schoonejongen, Gannett)



What NJ’s delegation says about the debt-limit debate

Much of the coverage in Washington has focused on House Republicans’ objections to the debt-limit proposal offered this week by Speaker John Boehner, but Senate Democrats have hardly been cheering about the no-revenues proposal offered by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.  (Jackson, The Record)



Ballot novices casting for votes

Voting records will doom several candidates this year and complicate Cherry Hill’s mayoral race — a close match until after a July 1 column exposed one candidate’s tax- and bill-paying issues.

Records also show how a Gloucester Township Council candidate circumvented state registration and residency requirements to be eligible for this year’s Nov. 8 general election.  (Rosen, Gannett)



Weinberg tells it like it is

I don’t always agree with Sen. Loretta Weinberg, but I respect her and here’s one of the reasons, she believes in fairness. Weinberg has called for the new Democratic PAC (OneNJ) to make public its donors. The PAC was created under non-profit laws to combat Gov. Christie’s political activities. Weinberg wrote to the Democratic backroom types running OneNJ: “You have indicated that ONENJ is under no legal requirement, under current state or federal law, to report its contributors … However, just because it’s legal, doesn’t always make it ethical or in the public interest.”  (Ingle, Gannett)



Morning News Digest: July 28, 2011