TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie kept the pressure on the Legislature and the courts this past week, insisting that the 400-plus privileged and “self-interested” judges pay their fair share toward their pensions and benefits, like police, firefighters and other public workers are required to do.
Christie suffered a setback earlier this month when Mercer County Assignment Judge Linda Feinberg ruled in favor of Hudson County Judge Paul DePascale, who sued over pension/benefit reform.
DePascale was successful in getting the law overturned as far as judges were concerned, and pension contributions will remain at the minuscule level of 3 percent.
The governor took the podium at the stately War Memorial, standing before many of his own party members, and implored Democrats to take a position and not just wait for the courts to decide.
While the state’s appeal winds its way through the courts, Christie kept up his drumbeat for a constitutional amendment.
Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce, (R-26), of Parsippany, said it’s time for the Democrats to call for an end to the “elitist benefits” for an exclusive group of public servants.
The Democrats hardly budged and dismissed the whole press conference as nothing more than a photo op.
Meanwhile, the saga continued to play out in the courts as the state lost a bid to have Feinberg’s ruling stayed pending the outcome of the appeals.
On the heels of that ruling, DePascale petitioned to have the case shifted directly to the state Supreme Court for arguments.
Transit development No. 1
The Joint Budget Oversight Committee approved a request to carry over $1.315 billion in previously approved, unused bonding for future transportation capital projects.
The bonds are intended to be used to carry out a five-year, $8 billion transportation project agenda that Gov. Chris Christie unveiled earlier this year.
The state treasurer said the carryover approval was needed to avoid higher interest rates and preserve cash flow.
Transit development No. 2
The cancelation of the Access to the Region’s Core project pitted Democrats who saw it as a jobs-building, congestion-relieving necessity against Republicans who feared it would become an expensive project whose cost overruns would burden the state.
But this week when a plan was announced to extend the New York No. 7 train to Secaucus Junction there was bipartisan praise for the proposal.
Democratic Assemblyman Ruben Ramos of Hoboken even wondered if the train could stop there.
The ACLU and a parents’ group are in a battle with Newark Mayor Cory Booker over access to emails regarding the $100 million pledge from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to the state-controlled Newark school district.
They say that city officials are using personal emails to discuss the pledge and public access to the messages is being denied. In the interests of transparency regarding the public’s business, they want to know what is being discussed.
Newark responded simply that the complaint by the ACLU and the parents’ group is without merit and that the complainants are mischaracterizing the situation.