Morning News Digest: January 23, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
DiVincenzo campaign finance reports missing expenditure info; Essex Exec says he’ll refile
Democratic Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo will amend several campaign finance reports filed with the state in the past four years in order to include itemized details of thousands of dollars charged to a campaign credit card.
Several reports filed during his 2010 run for office as well as reports filed in advance of the 2014 primary do not itemize nearly $175,000 in credit card charges, in violation of state campaign finance laws. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Romney supporter Christie said Gingrich has ‘embarrassed’ the Republican Party
As chief surrogate to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who was trounced in the South Carolina Republican Primary by Newt Gingrich on Saturday, Gov. Chris Christie slammed Gingrich as a Washington insider with no executive experience.
In a 13 minute interview on the Sunday morning news show, “Meet The Press,” Christie took issue with Gingrich’s description of his time as “a strategic adviser” for the disgraced government-run mortgage company Freddie Mac, and not as a lobbyist. (Hassan, PolitickerNJ)
Rockaway mayor jumps into LD26 contest
A third candidate has decided he wants a crack at that vacant 26th District Assembly seat.
Rockaway Township Mayor Louis S. Sceusi today sent a letter to the GOP county chairmen telling them he’s in the contest.
“Please be advised that I will seek the nomination for Assemblyman for the 26th District at the Republican County Committee Convention scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012,” Sceusi wrote. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Christie skeptical, but won’t rule out vice presidential bid
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who declined to run for president himself and threw his support behind Mitt Romney, said on Sunday that he would not rule out a vice presidential bid.
Christie said he would listen to an appeal should he be approached, but also said that he plans to remain New Jersey’s governor and was skeptical that he could be convinced otherwise. (Staff, National Journal)
Christie not inclined to join Romney ticket
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said that he would listen if Mitt Romney asked him to join the Republican ticket as vice presidential nominee, but said his “inclination” was to remain in his current job.
Christie is one of Romney’s most prominent supporters in his bid to become the GOP presidential nominee. He said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that if the former Massachusetts governor “picked up the phone,” he would consider an offer to run as vice president. (Boles, The Wall Street Journal)
Should Christie be cutting property taxes instead?
Gov. Chris Christie was in a triumphant mood during his State of the State speech as he surveyed his record in “controlling” property taxes.
Property taxes, Christie declared, “had risen 70 percent in the ten years before I became governor. Rising property taxes were driving people out of this state. And so we joined together,” he said, praising Democratic legislative leaders for their cooperation, “to cap property tax growth at no more than 2 percent a year.” (Magyar, NJ Spotlight)
What the Christie tax cut plans mean to NJ
Gov. Chris Christie’s proposal to cut income taxes by 10 percent across-the-board garnered national attention at a time when other states are raising income taxes to pay for their still-bleeding budgets.
But what the tax cut proposed Tuesday means for the majority of residents may not be as significant as what it means for state coffers. (DeFalco, Associated Press)
Is Christie angling for 2016?
Republican presidential politics remains center stage after Saturday’s crucial South Carolina primary — and there’s Gov. Chris Christie, standing in the spotlight.
Though not a candidate, Christie is today’s featured guest on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” He was omnipresent in the national media for much of the last week, ostensibly to promote his State of the State agenda but inevitably asked about national politics. He even prodded his preferred candidate, Mitt Romney, to more quickly release his income tax returns. (Symons, Gannett)
Christie meets with Portuguese ambassador
Portugal’s ambassador to the United States met with Gov. Christie on Friday for a private discussion that the ambassador said centered on forging closer business ties between the state and the European nation.
The meeting came as two cases involving fugitives with ties to both New Jersey and Portugal are being fought over in U.S. and Portuguese courts. Christie and Ambassador Nuno Brito would not discuss the court cases or say whether they had spoken about them. (Henry, Associated Press)
N.J. Republican fundraising committees outspent Democrats in 2011, reports show
The “big three” fundraising committees run by Republican political leaders in Trenton outspent their Democratic counterparts last year, according to reports released yesterday by the state’s campaign finance watchdog agency.
The state Republican Party and two committees controlled by GOP leaders in the Senate and Assembly spent a total of $8.4 million last year. The three Democratic committees spent $7.1 million, according to the Election Law Enforcement Commission. (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)
Lawmakers to vet same-sex marriage bill
The bid by ranking Democratic New Jersey lawmakers to pass a bill allowing same-sex marriage kicks off Tuesday, when the Senate Judiciary Committee holds a public hearing on the Marriage Equality and Religious Exemption Act.
The effort enjoyed momentum when announced by Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver earlier this month, but resistance has been building, likely setting the stage for a contentious committee hearing. (Jordan, Gannett)
Lou Greenwald claims governor’s proposed income tax cut benefits millionaires more than middle-class families
Millionaires, pack your bags.
Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald claims the wealthy can take a trip to paradise with the money they’ll keep under the 10 percent income tax rate cut proposed by Gov. Chris Christie. (O’Neill, PolitiFact New Jersey)
Can Trenton find funding for higher education facilities?
The physical condition and capacity of many of New Jersey’s public colleges and universities has long been a sore spot for the state. Its last general obligation bond on the schools’ behalf was in 1988 for $350 million.
“That’s a long time ago, and a lot of buildings are crumbling since,” said former Gov. Thomas Kean, who was in office at the time and last year led a task force calling for the state’s help. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
8 N.J. charter schools approved to open in Camden, Newark, Trenton, Jersey City, Vineland-Millville
Eight new charter schools that would open in September in Camden, Newark, Trenton, Jersey City, and Millville-Vineland have been approved by the state Department of Education.
In Camden, the Charter School for Global Leadership would educate 600 children in grades 9 to 12, the City Invincible Charter School would enroll 600 children in grades K to 8, and the Hope Community Charter School would take 330 children for grades K to 4. (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)
Cash for colleges? Maybe more of it this year
A state Senate committee on Monday will receive a wish list of needs from college presidents, just as Gov. Chris Christie says he’s warming up to the idea of providing more money for campus construction and renovation projects.
The leaders of the state’s 31 junior and senior colleges have been pushing for a bond issue to pay for capital projects such as new classrooms, laboratories, dorms and libraries. (Jordan, Gannett)
N.J. getting $136.8M in federal heating assistance
Uncle Sam is sending New Jersey nearly $136.8 million to help low-income residents keep warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
The administration of President Barack Obama said last week it is releasing $34.2 million under the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program for New Jersey now that Obama has signed a delayed spending bill into law. (Chebium, Gannett)
N.J. might pick up burial tab for line-of-duty deaths
Funeral expenses for police officers, firefighters, EMTs and other first-responders killed in the line of duty may soon be covered by the state.
Lawmakers will consider a measure on Monday that would authorize the state treasury department to reimburse family members up to $10,000 for burial expenses. The amount would be reduced by any Workers Compensation allowance, which currently has a $3,500 maximum. (Associated Press)
Garden Sate autism researchers get boost to advance work
The prevalence of autism in New Jersey has spurred extensive study, with biomedical researchers looking at everything from behavioral therapy to genetics to discover autism’s causes.
Now the state intends to expand these efforts in research and treatment by supporting the scientists financially — with $8 million in grants over five years — and coordinating individual efforts by sharing results in a central office. (Fitzgerald, NJ Spotlight)
N.J. sees success in fighting steroids in schools
Bigger. Stronger. Faster.
In a sports world where athletes want to get as much of an edge on the competition as possible, the use of steroids is a relatively quick fix. Despite a wide range of side effects — severe acne, liver disease, infertility and even death among the long list of dangers — many have ignored the warning signs and decided to take a walk down that path. (Minnick, Gannett)
Environmental coalition moves to block natural gas pipeline
In a reflection of the growing opposition to the expansion of energy infrastructure projects, a coalition of New Jersey environmental groups is seeking to intervene in a case involving a natural gas pipeline through northern New Jersey.
The groups are seeking to intercede in the proposed Northeast Grid Supply project by the Transcontinental Gas Pipeline (Transco), which is seeking approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to deliver cheap natural gas into the metropolitan area from the Marcellus Shale formations in neighboring Pennsylvania and New York. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Privatizing parts of N.J. park system stirs debate
A chain restaurant in Wharton State Forest. A Ferris wheel at Liberty State Park. Weddings, flea markets, and corporate events taking over New Jersey’s historic sites and scenic lands.
That could be the future if the state goes forward with plans to privatize parts of its park system, some warn. (Colimore, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
New Jersey homeless census seeks to count, aid the growing number of people in need
Mike Wood, who has spent the last seven years of his life out of doors, showed no interest in traveling away from his encampment off Route 9 in Howell so he can be counted as a homeless man.
Nor does he plan to go to any local center to pick up clothing and personal items – a draw to get the homeless to take part in a statewide census scheduled for Wednesday. (Serrano, Gannett)
Longtime Newark activist launches mayoral run
A Newark community activist known for his work with local youths says he’s running for mayor of New Jersey’s largest city.
Earl Best, known as “The Street Doctor,” says that after working largely outside the system for decades, he feels he can most effectively work for change from elected office. (Associated Press)
Two public worker unions OK contract
The Christie Administration said Friday that two state public employee unions approved a four-year contract that includes no salary increases in the first two years, but small ones in the last two years. (Hassan, State Street Wire) http://www.politickernj.com/54170/two-public-worker-unions-ok-contract
Two lawmakers push package of criminal justice bills
Two lawmakers plan to unveil a package of criminal justice bills on Monday.
Sens. Ray Lesniak (D-20), Elizabeth, and Sandra Cunningham, (D-31), Jersey City said today they have introduced a slate of bills. (Staff, State Street Wire)
Higher-ed issues front and center
Higher education issues will be plentiful in the Statehouse Annex on Monday, and not just because the fledgling Senate Higher Education Committee will drop the gavel for the first time.
Three Senate committees – Education and Economic Growth are the other two – will consider bills that involve higher education to some extent. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
From the Back Room
Progressive NJ Dems converge on White House
Some progressive Democratic Party leaders convened at the White House today for political briefings organized by Michael Kempner, President Barack Obama’s leading New Jersey fundraiser. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
4th District residency arguments slated
The state Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments in the Fourth District residency case that has kept Gabriela Mosquera from being sworn in to an Assembly seat.
At issue is a one-year residency requirement. The high court has tentatively slated arguments for 10 a.m. next Friday. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Marriage equality now
This could be the opportunity of a lifetime, not just for same sex couples, but for all citizens of New Jersey who believe in the civil rights of every individual regardless of race, color, religion or sexual orientation. I don’t care whether you call it gay marriage, same sex marriage, or marriage equality; there is good reason to believe that both houses of the state legislature are on the cusp of passing legislation that would have New Jersey become the 7th state to legalize marriage between two men or two women. (Adubato, Jr. for PolitickerNJ)
Chris Christie needs to embrace the freedom principle more
In his State of the State address, Governor Christie presented several long overdue initiatives, while offering other proposals that would just tinker around the edges regarding what ails the economy. The governor’s take on taxes and crime is a good first step, but he needs to embrace a long term strategy based on a firm grasp of the freedom principle. (Sabrin for PolitickerNJ)
Adlai Stevenson, 1953; Chris Christie, 2012?
The year was 1952. A first term liberal Democratic reform governor in Illinois had established a reputation for supreme competence and unquestionable integrity. His accomplishments attracted national attention, and leading Democrats began to speak about him as their most electable presidential candidate. (Steinberg for PolitickerNJ)
Dems weigh options to turn tax cut into advantage
Governor Christie’s income tax pledge forced Democrats into a defensive crouch after last Tuesday’s State of the State speech.
But now some officials are considering several negotiating options that could use Christie’s tax cut sound bite for their political advantage.
One prominent Democrat told me last week that they might advance a plan that would maintain the promised 10 percent tax cuts for lower- and middle-income residents but also renew the surcharge on those with incomes of $1 million or higher. (Stile, The Record)
With locals leading GOP in Assembly and Senate, Westfield still a power center
Westfield, a well-heeled Union County town of 30,000, can now boast a distinction that few New Jersey municipalities have been able to claim.
With the elevation of Jon Bramnick to Assembly minority leader, the Republican leaders of both houses can claim 07090 as their ZIP code. Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. is also a Westfield resident. (The Auditor, The Star-Ledger)
Christie delivers a speech for more than New Jerseyans
For a first reaction, it would have been easy for anyone listening to Gov. Chris Christie’s State of the State address on Tuesday to ask the question: “Is that all there is?”
The governor ticked off the obligatory list of accomplishments, proclaimed that New Jersey was getting better and then launched in the meat of his speech, which for some was more tofu than sirloin.
Christie only announced three major initiatives: tax-code changes, education reform and criminal justice reforms. That made some pundits wonder why the slim agenda and Democrats criticize the governor for ignoring job creation. (Schoonejongen, Gannett)
Influence of money in politics abuses system
We have a growing problem in this nation, we’re in danger of losing control of our republic because of the influence of money. The politicians who could change it are afraid or have been bought off or are outnumbered by those who are co-opted by a system that looks less what the founders fought a revolution for than a TV game show.
Don’t count on any help from the Supreme Court. It’s the court that got us into this mess. The latest round was a ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which made it possible for corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts of money on political races. (Ingle, Gannett)
A lower tax keeps focus on business
Chris Christie’s bold promise to offer a 10 percent income tax cut across the board was made a week ago, but we bet you can still hear at least light applause for the move in Garden State boardrooms this week.
Beyond the fact that a move like this means more money in the pockets of employees — and, more importantly, more money for business owners who report business income as personal income — it’s yet another promotional item the state can use for chasing some of the high-end corporations it’s landed as tenants in the past year. (NJBIZ)
Five decades in office: Is that too long?
A historical event took place earlier this month atop the Palisades Cliffs in little Cliffside Park. The borough’s mayor, Gerald Calabrese, was sworn in for his 49th year in office.
No mayor in New Jersey history has served longer.
The moment was obviously triumphant for the 87-year-old Calabrese and his family. In these days of layoffs and multiple careers, there is something noble about being able to keep one job since the days when the Beatles were turning out their first hit songs and Lyndon Johnson was touting the “Great Society.” (Kelly, The Record)