Weekly Roundup: Week of Nov. 14

TRENTON – Going back to his town-hall style approach of talking directly to the people about the pressing issues, Gov. Chris Christie took to the road this week to promote his education and civil service reform proposals, and called on the Legislature to get moving on passing legislation to make those ideas reality.

Among the bills he is calling for are the Opportunity Scholarship Act and legislation that promotes more charter schools.

He went to Secaucus High School on Wednesday and called for a revamped evaluation system for teachers that he said better measures their effectiveness.

Secaucus is one of 10 pilot program participants that would benefit from the effort that is linked to the state’s application for a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind program, which was submitted this week as well.

The New Jersey Education Association has said the Christie Administration’s promotion of charter schools is overblown, and argues that few are better than public schools.

Then on Thursday Christie spoke at the annual convention of the N.J. League of Municipalities and reiterated his call for Civil Service reform in order to give mayors flexibility to deal with the property tax cap and reduced funding.

Slow recovery

The economic news appears to be grim for the long-term, but in the short term, it appears it is inching forward, at least at the state level.

At an economic forum, which was held at the Trenton Museum, economic expert Joel Naroff said the recovery will continue to be slow and grinding for some time. That is because much of the economic boom of the prior years was built on the foundation (literally and figuratively) of a red-hot housing market that fizzled and is unlikely to return to form any time soon.

Add to that the fact that banks are unwilling to lend mortgages and the state is facing a double whammy.

One expert recommended the state reinstate the millionaire’s tax, something that Treasure Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff said is highly unlikely.

In fact, the state discussed a report at the forum that it said showed the bad effect on the state of high-wage earners either leaving altogether or deciding not to move into New Jersey, and argued that despite the Democrats’ repeated calls for such a tax, it would just hamper the overall recovery.

The state’s unemployment report for October suggested the state is inching forward in job creation. But not is all rosy when it comes to state finances.

Stormy is more likely the apt description – literally – since weak tax collections last month could be attributed to that freak winter storm that stifled much business and consumer activity, according to a survey of the state revenue collections by the Treasury Department.

In terms of unemployment, the jobless rate went down 9.2 percent to 9.1 percent, with some 2,500 jobs were created overall.

While 4,000 private-sector jobs were produced, the public sector, especially at the state level, continued to take a hit, losing 1,500 jobs.

The tax collection presentation from the Treasury Department that blamed October’s weaker than expected figures on the snowstorm was met with skepticism by some Democrats, namely Assembly Majority Leader-elect Lou Greenwald, (D-6), of Voorhees, who called the excuse of the storm slowing down tax collection akin to a student telling the teacher a dog ate his homework.

The revenues were 3.4 percent below the administration’s own projections.

But on a related note, the severity of that storm produced a letter from Christie to President Obama, requesting he declare 11 counties that were hard hit by the storm a disaster area.

RGGI redux

It was a war of interpretations following the release of a report that said the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which essentially imposes a tax on entities producing pollution, is an economic driver.

Jeff Tittel of the New Jersey Sierra Club said the report supports the economic benefits of the 10-state pact that Christie said earlier this year New Jersey would no longer be a party to.

However, conservative firebrand Steve Lonegan of Americans for Prosperity, which is strongly against RGGI, called it a biased report that was funded by the various interests that support the program.

NJTV & Montclair University

It seems like the more things change, the more they stay the same. New Jersey Television (NJTV), the public television network that replaced New Jersey Network, has been using many of the former network’s talent to facilitate its operation.

Then, on Wednesday, it was learned that NJTV would use Montclair University, which unsuccessfully bid to take over NJN, for studio and office space.

The university will receive $400,000 for use of the space.

The network has used the services of former NJN cameramen an on-air journalists like Michael Aron and Desiree Taylor, among others.


Weekly Roundup: Week of Nov. 14