Winners and Losers: Budget Edition

WINNERS
 
Michael Aron, Jim Hooker and the Staff at NJN
Hemingway famously defined courage as “grace under pressure,” which is what these professionals embodied at New Jersey’s public television station as they reported on their own demise. The veteran Aron, Hooker and their colleagues went out with class last night, while simultaneously providing great television to New Jersey.
 
Millionaires
That sliver of the population the rest of us love to hate again escaped the Democrats’ efforts to burden them with another tax. Faced with the Democrats’ bill requiring a millionaire’s tax, Gov. Chris Christie rushed to the aid of the rich and flourished his veto pen.
 
Paul Sarlo

The chair of the senate budget committee successfully drove the Democrats’ budget through the process and deftly withstood a barrage of attacks on the floor of the Senate chamber. It finally took Gov. Chris Christie himself to haul off, describing the Bergen senator’s budget argument as disingenuous while admitting that Sarlo is smart.

Bob Menendez

Some insiders believed biotech millionaire John Crowley matched up well against the U.S. Senator, who’s up for re-election in 2012. Now that doesn’t matter, as Crowley earlier this week announced on Facebook that he won’t be a candidate next year.
 
Joe Kyrillos
The exit of biotech millionaire Crowley of Princeton from the 2012 U.S. Senate sweepstakes means the veteran GOP state senator from Middletown can further consolidate party support for a challenge of Menendez. Kyrillos last month set up an exploratory committee but has not yet decided if he will run. Crowley’s exit simply removes what might have been a well-funded primary challenger should Kyrillos decide to be a candidate.
 
Abbott Schools
Reluctantly, Gov. Chris Christie was forced to comply with a Supreme Court decision requiring him to fully fund urban school districts under the current schools funding formula. The result is a court-ordered budget victory for urban school districts.

Anne Patterson
The state Senate on Monday approved the Morris County attorney to serve as state Supreme Court justice.
 
The Statehouse Press Corps

The accepted story line of the past few years has been that the press corps is dying, and with their diminished numbers, politicians will feel free to head back to the smoke-filled rooms for their deal-making sessions.  But with solid additions such as NJ Spotlight and our own State Street Wire to the mix, the crew covering the governor and company is far from dead.  They proved it over the past few weeks with their coverage of first the pension and health benefits debates and later the budget circus.  The public was extraordinarily well served by stellar reporting from the likes of Bill Mooney, Tim Carroll, Minhaj Hassan and  Max Pizarro from State Street Wire and PolitickerNJ, The Star Ledger’s Jarrett Renshaw, Matt Friedman, Chris Megerian, Ginger Gibson, Sal Rizzo  and Megan DeMarco, The Record’s John Reitmeyer, Juliet Fletcher (who continued the excellent coverage she began at the Press of Atlantic City) and of course Charlie Stile, 101.5’s Kevin McArdle, NJ Spotlight’s John Mooney and Tom Johnson, AP’s Angie Delli Santi and Beth DeFalco, New Jersey Press Media’s Jason Method, Michael Symons, Bob Jordan, John Schoonejongen and Bob Ingle, Bloomberg’s Terry Dopp,  the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Matt Katz and Maya Rao and last but certainly not least, NJN’s Michael Aron, Marie DeNoia  Aronsohn, and Jim Hooker . Congrats to all of them, they did a hell of a job over the past two weeks.  The press corps also wins this week because with the budget settled, they get to head out for 4th of July with a clean plate.

 
LOSERS
 
NJN Television
New Jersey lost its own public TV network this week as Gov. Chris Christie followed through with his vow to extricate the state from the public television business.
 
Chris Christie
It was overshadowed by the budget circus, and the governor told political allies he doesn’t care, but a Bloomberg Poll appeared this week that shows a majority of New Jerseyans don’t support bringing him back for a second term. It may be time to cling to that VP slot.

Distressed Cities
The governor’s budget cuts chop $129 million in transitional aid from the state’s urban areas, depriving those municipalities of much sought-after state funding. Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage said Christie’s budgeting priorities may be good for Iowa and New Hampshire but not the State of New Jersey. Cities also lose money to fund Urban Enterprise Zones (UEZs).

College Students
Gov. Chris Christie this week rolled back Tuition Aid Grants for students in need. There had been a proposed increase of over $40 million. According to Association spokesman Paul Shelly, the governor originally proposed a $25.2 million increase from the fiscal year 2011 level of $294.3 million for the TAG program, and then the Legislature proposed an additional $20 million increase. In the final budget signed this week, the TAG level stayed at $294.3 million, he said.  The State’s universities als got slashed by the dreaded red pen, which could mean tuition hikes to cover the difference and fewer teachers to staff classes.

Scott Rumana
To be clear, he hasn’t been charged yet, but a state ethics committee voted this week to prepare charges against the Passaic County Assemblyman over his attempt to appear before a state agency to advocate on behalf of a non-profit he founded, and a later call to a state official on behalf of a non-profit.

Senate and Assembly staffers
It’s generally a rule in politics to stay away from staffers, but it appears as though Senate and Assembly staff were collateral damage in a political war of red pens this week as the governor ultimately slashed $2.7 million and $1 million respectively from the two offices.
 
Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

A letter from a Deputy Attorney General Thursday continued to cast doubt on the state’s program and at the very least will give pause to the six dispensaries chosen to sell the marijuana.  The DAG said in no uncertain terms that growing and dispensing the drug is a crime. 

Winners and Losers: Budget Edition