Morning News Digest: January 27, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Christie dominates Chamber with pro-biz speech
Gov. Chris Christie took the midway mark of his tenure to spotlight his pro-business record at the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner.
The Democratic members of New Jersey’s Congressional delegation cleared the area as Christie gloated.
“Single best year of private sector job creation since 2000,” the governor said of 2010. “We stopped the bleeding by stopping the spending. …We are getting money back into your pockets so you can hire so we can get New Jerseyans back to work. It’s time we give money back to the people of the State of New Jersey.” (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Pennacchio and Sweeney team up on flood remediation bill
Gay marriage might not be the only question on that November ballot if two state senators have their way.
State Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R-26) this week put in a bipartisan bill that would put a $2 billion flood mediation bond question to the voters.’ “I told him I would back him on it,” state Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3), West Deptford, told PolitickerNJ.com. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Kyrillos has new role on Chamber train
State Sen. Joe Kyrillos boarded the train to Washington as a newly minted candidate for U.S. Senate and became a featured attraction for the train faithful.
For those who braved the hordes for the traditional walk from one end of the train to the other, Kyrillos’ car was a must stop.
Kyrillos, of Monmouth County, said he’s looking forward to the coming year of campaigning against Democratic incumbent Bob Menendez. He could be facing a primary from former Highlands Borough Mayor Anna Little, but at this point, he said, he’s focused on Menendez. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Christie wants focus on jobs, not social issues
Solving social issues can wait. Jobs can’t.
That was the message that Gov. Chris Christie delivered to New Jersey business leaders visiting Washington, D.C., on Thursday as he ripped Democrats in the Legislature for their push to legalize gay marriage last week while the state’s unemployment remains high.
“What do you think the people of New Jersey care about most? Do you think they care about the things we’ve been talking about the most this last week?” Christie said. “They want to play around with social issues so they can make people look bad politically. How about saving that until we can get everybody back to work in New Jersey?” (DeFalco, Associated Press)
At Chamber dinner, Gov. Christie rips into Dem lawmakers
Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday ripped Democrats in the Legislature as misguided for trying to legalize gay marriage and for their criticism of his income tax plan during a speech at the state’s annual Chamber of Commerce congressional dinner.
Christie suggested that people care more about creating jobs than social issues.
He also called their criticism of his proposed 10 percent across-the-board income tax cut, which will cost an estimated $1 billion over three years, hypocritical given his budget cuts over the last two years. (DeFalco, Associated Press)
Christie pushes tax-cut plan in Washington speech to N.J. business advocates
Governor Christie told an audience of state business leaders who traveled to Washington on Thursday that legislative critics of his proposed income tax cut were hypocrites because they had supported fiscally irresponsible budgets before.
He also blasted Democratic legislators for bringing up “social issues” to score political points — a clear reference to same-sex marriage though the governor never used those words — instead of the issues people want “the most.” (Jackson, The Record)
Gov. Christie fields questions from friendly crowd at Vineland town hall
Gov. Chris Christie said mandatory rehabilitation for non-violent drug offenders would save the state money, could close prisons and help people with addiction at a town hall meeting in Vineland this afternoon.
Christie ended up in the Cumberland County town after “Ann from Vineland” -the wife of Mayor Robert Romano – called Christie on the monthly “Ask the Governor” call-in radio show last month. Christie promised he would show up in Vineland in January, and today he made good on his promise before an overflow crowd at the National Guard Armory. (DeMarco, The Star-Ledger)
Christie tells why rehab trumps jail
Gov. Christie says his plan to send more nonviolent drug offenders into treatment rather than to prison is motivated partly by the successes of smaller-scale versions of the program – including a former intern of his who he says went from being a teenage heroin addict to an accomplished lawyer.
Christie told the story Thursday at an unusually emotional and decidedly subdued edition of his statewide series of town hall meetings. His answers were so long that he had time to take only about a half-dozen questions, and two dealt with his views on drug treatment. (Mulvihill, Associated Press)
Governor, Democrats in Legislature ready to go to mat over marriage equality
Gov. Chris Christie and Senate President Stephen Sweeney are racing to line up support for competing positions on a same-sex marriage bill, with the Republican governor promising to twist arms if necessary to ensure his promised veto is sustained.
There are 24 Democrats in the Senate, with all but two of them either committed or likely to vote for S-1, the Marriage Equality and Religious Exemption Act, according to bill sponsors. (Jordan, Gannett)
Byrne tells Menendez skipping dinner ‘a mistake’
Sen. Bob Menendez was explaining his reaction to the Chamber of Commerce’s decision to not have members of Congress give speeches as this reporter trailed him through the lobby of the Marriott Wardman Park hotel.
“I don’t quite understand a New Jersey trip to Washington to not hear from any federal officials, in the cause of promoting business and economic opportunity in New Jersey, but it’s their decision,” Menendez was saying. (Jackson, The Record)
State pension funds continue to struggle
New Jersey’s pension funds are continuing to struggle because they are still digging out of the hole left by the financial crisis and, in recent months, have been hit by the market meltdown in Europe.
The funds that serve 769,000 current or former state and local government workers held a total of $67.2 billion in assets as of Dec. 31, according to figures released Thursday.
But state and local governments face a combined $41.8 billion in liabilities over the next 30 years in excess of the amount the state currently holds, actuary figures released this week show. (Method, Gannett)
Senator wants hearings on colleges
The head of the state Senate’s Higher Education Committee on Thursday said she wants to hold hearings on a proposed reorganization of higher-education institutions across the state.
Sen. Sandra Bolden Cunningham, D-Hudson, said hearings are needed for “a complete understanding of the statewide benefits and implications” of the plan, which was unveiled by Gov. Chris Christie one day earlier. (Walsh, Gannett)
New Jersey attempting to get a handle on development
After more than two decades of sprawling suburban growth and state agency feuds that led to chaotic regional-planning efforts, the Christie administration is pushing a new vision for future development in New Jersey.
Gov. Chris Christie is proposing a statewide plan to promote economic growth, funnel residential development toward mass transit and existing infrastructure and get state agencies cooperating more efficiently. (De Avila, The Wall Street Journal)
Lance introduces bill to streamline regulatory framework of treatments for rare, chronic diseases
Behind U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance, R-7th District, stood Bonnie Anderson of Berkeley Heights, who a decade ago was diagnosed with mesothelioma and told she had about three months to live.
Across a table from Lance sat Janet Palkewick of North Haledon, who 22 years ago while pregnant with her son Philip was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and told she had about two to four years to live. (Spivey, Gannett)
Senate readies for second try to license single-room surgeries
Sen. Joseph F. Vitale (D-Middlesex), chairman of the Senate’s health committee, is moving swiftly on a bill that would require all operating rooms to be licensed and inspected by the state Department of Health.
The measure was pocket-vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie earlier this month in part because it exempted one-room surgery practices from a tax that is levied on multi-room ambulatory surgery centers. (Fitzgerald, NJ Spotlight)
Mixed reviews for Office of Clean Energy’s solar plan
If a state agency was expecting to quickly reach a consensus on how to fix New Jersey’s solar market, it may prove as elusive as legislative efforts turned out to be earlier this month.
The Office of Clean Energy’s two options for stabilizing the solar sector won mixed reviews at best from some of the state’s utilities, which would be asked to extend programs that helped residents and businesses put solar systems in place through long-term contracts. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Christie touts income tax-cut plan
Gov. Chris Christie came down to the Armory here today touting his record of the past two years, and calling on the public to support his proposed 10-percent, across-the-board income tax cut.
“I need your help,” he told an overflowing crowd. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
Sunoco rebuts lawmaker’s claims, pledges commitment to refinery site
Sunoco responded to state lawmakers’ announcement Wednesday that they will introduce legislation to prevent the company from walking away from a shuttered refinery in West Deptford without remediating the property.
Southern N.J. lawmakers, led by Senate President Steve Sweeney, railed against Sunoco, whose Eagle Point Refinery in Gloucester County is largely silent these days. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
Medical center loses sales tax refund bid
A Camden medical center has lost a bid to recoup sales tax monies in connection with electricity distribution services.
The Tax Court ruled that Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center cannot collect a refund of $72,000 on more than $123,000 paid in sales tax. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
Casino loses sales tax refund decision
An Atlantic City casino has lost a battle over sales tax refunds tied to electricity distribution.
The Tax Court has ruled against Atlantic City Showboat Inc., which had sought a refund of approximately $391,000 on more than $622,000 in sales taxes it had paid. (Mooney, Stare Street Wire)
University overhaul includes prize for kingpin
New Jersey’s Uni-Government – Republican Governor Christie’s alliance with Democratic Party power brokers – has run the table in Trenton for the past two years. It is the source of Christie’s “bipartisan” success. It has also maintained a rare period of detente between the Democratic factions in the northern and southern parts of the state.
That axis of pragmatic power ground out another long-sought byproduct Wednesday, a sweeping plan to restructure New Jersey’s university system, which includes a valuable prize for South Jersey Democratic kingpin George Norcross, whom many consider one of the most powerful, unelected charter members of the Uni-Government. (Stile, The Record)
Chris Christie punts on marriage equality
In what could be termed the oldest dodge in the book, the governor upstaged Tuesday’s state Senate hearings on same-sex marriage by announcing he wants a voter referendum on the issue. Christie said “the institution of marriage is too serious to be treated like a political football.” Those are odd words from a man who just punted.
On Monday, Christie gained the accolades of the state’s largest gay rights organization, Garden State Equality, when he nominated an openly gay mayor to sit on the state Supreme Court. The nominee, Bruce Harris, isn’t just gay, he’s black. The governor’s other high court nominee, also announced Monday, is Korean-American. It was the trifecta of political correctness. (Doblin, The Record)