TRENTON – It was a week in which the Democrats and Gov. Chris Christie took potshots at one another –some policy-oriented but all political – over Snooki’s tax credit, having more conveniently-timed town halls, and the environment.
Committees assembled during the week to release bills to drum up support for solar energy, provide tax credits for various industries, create green-job certification and aviation programs at colleges.
But it was Snooki and her “Jersey Shore” roommates that raised the ire of Trenton’s political elite.
A verbal tiff took place between Christie and Sen. Paul Sarlo over the $420,000 tax credit that the Economic Development Authority approved for the MTV show.
Christie has been against the credit all along, regardless of the content of the film or program. However, Sarlo introduced another film tax credit bill that was dealt with in committee this week, saying it helps bring in revenues and provides employment.
Republicans on the Budget Committee thought otherwise, with Sen. Michael Doherty calling the credit a big money loser. As expected, the bill was voted along party lines, with the seven Democrats voting yes, and the five Republicans voting no.
Helping Hoboken Hospital
After the Hoboken City Council got cold feet on approving $5 million to save Hoboken Hospital from bankruptcy by transitioning it to a private company, Christie said on Thursday his administration was willing to contribute that amount to assist in the transition and protect the city’s credit rating. He called the council’s move “shortsighted” and politically motivated.
What is at stake is the state’s only city-owned hospital surviving by shifting into private ownership and management.
Smog on the horizon
The governor received another black eye from the environmental community.
The group Environment New Jersey issued a report Wednesday that said New Jersey ranked as the fifth smoggiest state in the country. It went further to show that such large struggling metro areas as Newark, Trenton, and Vineland, along with more prosperous areas like Middlesex, Somerset and Hunterdon counties, experienced several days of smog.
The group added that Christie’s pullout earlier this year from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative exacerbates the problem.
Christie has defended his stance of reducing the goal of having energy derived from renewable sources from 30 percent to 22.5, adding that the prior benchmark, which was set in the Corzine Administration, was pie-in-the-sky.
Fuming over smoking
A new American Cancer Society report, “Up in Smoke,” criticized New Jersey for spending less than 1 percent of its cigarette tax revenue on anti-smoking programs.
One official went so far as to say the state does “nothing” in this area. The report suggested, among other things, raising the state’s highest-in-the-nation cigarette tax by $1 to $3.70 per pack.
In 2011, total tobacco revenue was $900 million, but only $1.5 million was spent on cessation or education programs, according to officials at a Wednesday press conference.
The state Department of Health and Senior Services said it has continued to support anti-smoking programs and efforts, pointing out the five Quitcenters in the state, the state’s NJQuitline, and the state having the third lowest adult smoking rate in the nation, 14.8 percent as of 2010.
Junk food blues
And another report, this one by NJPIRG, sharply criticized Agricultural subsidies that it said end up actually promoting the production of junk food moreso than the consumption of healthy foods.
With the urban setting of the non-profit Lincoln Park Community Farm in Newark as a backdrop, NJPIRG raised the alarm about government-subsidized, processed snack foods and called for more consumption of healthy produce.
The Senate Budget Committee ushered a package of tax-break bills through with little in the way of across-the-aisle opposition. The next step for them will be a full voting session on Monday.
The various bills promote such initiatives as angel investors, small-business loan programs, and extending corporation-level tax breaks to smaller enterprises.