Morning News Digest: February 22, 2012

Morning News Digest: February 22, 2012

By Missy Rebovich

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Pollster: Christie budget pins hope on rosy economy

Rousing cheers went up from the gallery throughout Gov. Chris Christie’s $32.1 billion budget address this afternoon, but harder eyes saw little in the governor’s speech reflecting the Republican’s 2009 boast that he intends to “turn Trenton upside down.”

Noting Christie’s weeks-long town hall sloganeering about “the Jersey Comeback,” one expert said Christie’s budget hinges heavily on the economy turning around rather than tough or radical budgeting proposals.  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



A jab at NJEA’s Giordano in budget speech

Gov. Chris Christie called for $1 million to help create a new Governor’s Urban Scholarship Program for urban students, softening his mostly Democratic Party audience as he used his budget address to make a renewed pitch for a thornier demand: a vouchers pilot program.

In crafting his argument for the Opportunity Scholarship Act, Christie took a jab at Vince Giordano, executive director of the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA).  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



Former consultant pleads guilty in 40th Dist. robocall case

A political consultant pleaded guilty today to arranging for deceptive “robocalls” to be made to over 12,000 voters in the June 2009 Republican Primary race for Assembly in the 40th Legislative District, according to Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa.

Kevin Collins, 41, of Brooklyn, formerly of Wood-Ridge, N.J., pleaded guilty today before Superior Court Judge Donna Gallucio in Passaic County to a criminal complaint charging him with violating the Fair Campaign Practices Act, a disorderly persons offense, Chiesa said.  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



Christie hitting road to pitch budget to residents

Gov. Chris Christie is taking his budget proposal on the road.

Christie will conduct a town hall event in Palisades Park on Wednesday, the day after introducing a $32.1 billion budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Christie’s proposing slight increases to education and higher education, after having cut both in his first budget two years ago.

The Republican governor has also included $183 million to begin funding a 10 percent income tax cut that will be phased in over three years.

Christie has proposed a 5 percent increase in a tax credit for the working poor. He also wants to expand services for homeless veterans.  (Associated Press)|newswell|text|NewJerseyNews|s



Highlights from Gov. Christie’s proposed 2012-13 budget

Gov. Chris Christie proposed a budget today that relies on robust revenue growth to deliver about $2 billion in increased spending in several areas, including higher education and aid to local schools.

Saying it is “time to put the New Jersey comeback into high gear,” Christie unveiled a spending plan for the fiscal year 2013 that relies on a 7 percent increase in revenue — even though collections in the current year have fallen short of expectations. The plan is in stark contrast to his two previous budgets, which called for steep cuts or flat funding.  (Baxter, The Star-Ledger)



Chris Christie on gay marriage: No compromise

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie tells CNN’s Piers Morgan that as someone who believes marriage is between a man and a woman and who holds that position guided by his religious beliefs, he “won’t compromise my principles for politics” on the issue.

In an interview before he vetoed a same-sex marriage bill on Friday, Christie reiterated that he supports a statewide voter referendum on the issue.  (Weinger, Politico)



Christie bases latest budget on rapid economic growth

Gov. Chris Christie has proposed a $32.1 billion budget for the next fiscal year that’s based on rapid economic growth that would drive both tax cuts and revenue increases.

“Today, it is time to put the New Jersey comeback into high gear,” Christie said.

The proposed budget projects a 7.3 percent increase in state revenue over the amount budgeted this year, including a 10.9 percent increase in corporation business taxes.  (Kitchenman, NJBIZ)



Governor Christie’s $32B budget counts on economic recovery

Governor Christie is banking on $2 billion in economic growth to sustain a $32.1 billion budget that puts more dollars into schools, colleges and public employee pensions while also paying for cuts in income and business taxes.

New Jersey’s economy is turning around, Christie said, and that means he can cut taxes and increase spending on priorities such as education.

“We have done the hard work to get where we are today, to fund what matters, while at the same time finally providing long overdue tax relief,” Christie said in his 40-minute address to the Legislature on Tuesday.  (Reitmeyer and Fletcher, The Record)



In video, Christie vows ‘economic relief’ for New Jersey residents

Ahead of his budget address Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Chris Christie released a video touting his accomplishments since he took office in 2010 and his goals for this year, including a plan to give New Jersey residents “economic relief.”

Christie is expected to outline a 10% personal income tax cut over the next three years in his 2012-2013 budget address. In his State of the State address last month, Christie said he would fulfill a campaign pledge by returning money to taxpayers when the state’s economy improved. The announcement was attacked by state Democrats, who control both houses of the Legislature, who said it would reduce state revenue by $1 billion.  (Haddon, The Wall Street Journal)



Share and share alike? Not Christie’s $213 million bump in school aid

To big applause, Gov. Chris Christie yesterday highlighted that his proposed fiscal 2013 budget would include an additional $213 million in aid to public schools, but the cheers may not be widespread when the details reveal how the money is distributed.

Districts are to learn today how each will fare under Christie’s $32.1 billion spending plan, and although the overall amount in state school aid is going up about 1.7 percent, state officials said it will not be across-the-board increases to all 500-plus districts.  (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)



Schools awaiting details of proposed rise in aid

Governor Christie proposed boosting aid to public schools by $121 million Tuesday, and now districts are awaiting the details about how much each would receive.

Christie has often asserted that the school funding law sends a disproportionate sum to failing urban schools, and has argued more spending does not equal better achievement. Many educators are eager to see if his allocations change the aid distribution among districts.

“Our expectation is the vast majority of districts will receive a slight increase in overall school aid,” said Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff. The figures, however, are not yet set, he said.  (Brody, The Record)



Christie quietly diverts $210 million from clean energy fund

Gov. Chris Christie is once again raiding the state’s clean energy fund, this time diverting $210 million from the program that pays to help residents and businesses save money on their utility bills by reducing energy consumption.

The governor did not mention the diversion in his speech to lawmakers, nor was it disclosed at a budget briefing for reporters earlier in the day. It only came to light late in the afternoon when the administration released a 145-page budget summary for the 2013 fiscal year — a single line item identifying $210 million in interagency fund transfers to the general fund.  (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)



Reorganization, restructuring, and reallocation: Christie’s proposed health budget

Gov. Chris Christie’s 2013 budget proposal calls for sweeping changes in the organization of state health services, shifting millions of dollars into community, rather than institutional, care, and adding new funding to mental health and developmental disability services.

But despite these changes, the budget proposal represents more of a shift in dollars rather than any new investments.  (Fitzgerald, NJ Spotlight)



‘Second chance’ drug treatment funded

Gov. Chris Christie promises to have details soon about his proposal to have nonviolent drug offenders sentenced to treatment centers instead of jail, but has put up $2.5 million in his budget plan to get the program rolling.

The Christie budget also includes $1 million to recruit and select two State Police training classes, anticipated to enroll 150 new troopers per class. The recruits will enable the police force “to continue effectively manage its workforce levels,” an administration spokesman said.  (Jordan, Gannett)



N.J. Democratic leaders to focus on middle class when reviewing Christie’s budget

Democratic legislative leaders are critical of Gov. Chris Christie’s proposed $32.1 billion 2012-13 state budget, declaring it political theater, and describe his call for a 10 percent state income reduction, a tax cut for the rich at the expense of the middle-class.

“Gov. Christie just doesn’t get it,” Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Camden) said. “His zeal for tax breaks for the rich while middle-class families struggle with the highest property taxes in the nation is wrong. He has essentially proclaimed ‘Mission Accomplished’ after a net 20 percent property tax increase.  (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)



Online sales-tax bill introduced

A sales-tax exemption measure designed to encourage major online retailers to locate in New Jersey has been introduced in the Legislature.

The bill would help alleviate disparities between online retailers, who are not required to collect New Jersey’s 7 percent sales tax unless they have a physical presence in the state, and bricks-and-mortar stores, according to Democrats.

“My goal and the goal of legislative leadership has always been to find a way to balance the interests of the retail merchants and the Internet merchants in a way that will ensure equity and a level playing field going forward,” said Assembly Majority Leader Louis D. Greenwald (D., Camden), the driving force behind the measure.  (Delli Santi, Associated Press)



Jersey bill for Amazon stirs debate

Legislation designed to encourage major online retailers like to locate in New Jersey has been introduced.

The bill would help alleviate disparities between online retailers, who aren’t required to collect New Jersey’s 7 percent sales tax unless they have a physical presence in the state, and those operating out of storefronts, Democrats told The Associated Press.

“My goal and the goal of legislative leadership has always been to find a way to balance the interests of the retail merchants and the Internet merchants in a way that will ensure equity and a level playing field going forward,” said Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald of Voorhees, the driving force behind the measure.  (Delli Santi, Associated Press)|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE



Ex-Giant Carson will not challenge Garrett for Congress

Harry Carson, the Hall of Fame former Giants linebacker, has decided not to challenge Rep. Scott Garrett, R-Wantage, in the recently redrawn 5th Congressional District, Bergen County Democratic officials confirmed Tuesday.

Carson, whom many North Jersey Democrats thought had the best shot at unseating Garrett, told Bergen County Democratic Chairman Lou Stellato that he would withdraw from the race while the two were at breakfast Tuesday morning, Stellato said.

“He said, ‘I just don’t have the passion for it,’ ” Stellato said, adding that the recent death of Carson’s brother also was a factor in the decision. “And I said, ‘Well, I’m not going to talk you into it.’ ”  (Shilling, The Record)



Part of gay marriage suit is reinstated

A New Jersey judge has reinstated a previously dismissed portion of a lawsuit from gay couples seeking to have the state recognize same-sex marriage.

The ruling, issued Tuesday by Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg, broadens the scope of the suit by allowing further argument over whether denying gay couples permission to wed violates the U.S. Constitution.

Gay-rights groups see the reinstatement as a small victory, though largely technical.  (Mulvihill, Associated Press)



Rule seen to discourage Rowan-Rutgers merger

An executive order to force the realignment of the state’s universities is precluded by state statute, according to legal expert Ronald T. Chen.

An exemption known as 18A:3B-36 requires “specific enabling legislation” for the reorganization of state institutions of higher education any time after July 1, 1994.

It throws a monkey wrench into potential plans by Gov. Chris Christie to sign an executive order forcing a series of changes he endorses.  (Shelly, Gannett)



Pompton Lake dredging delayed

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will take a second look at its widely criticized plan to dredge contaminated sludge from a 26-acre portion of Pompton Lake.

The agency announced today that it still expects to proceed with work in the lake, but has delayed any dredging until spring 2013.

The decision followed pointed criticism of the project as insufficient, and calls by some residents, as well as former Gov. James Florio and nationally known environmental activist Lois Gibbs, to add the area to the federal Superfund clean-up list.  (Tyrrell, NJ Spotlight)



Delaware attorney named executive director of DRBA

Scott A. Green, a Rehoboth Beach, Del., lawyer, was appointed Tuesday to be the executive director of the Delaware River and Bay Authority, which operates the Delaware Memorial Bridge and the Cape May-Lewes Ferry.

Green, currently a member of the DRBA board, will replace James T. Johnson Jr., who has held the job for 10 years. Johnson, 56, will retire from the bistate DRBA “to pursue other opportunities” effective April 2, the agency said Tuesday.  (Nussbaum, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



Feds loan $638M for health co-ops in 8 states, including NJ

Health care cooperatives being launched in eight states announced Tuesday they will be receiving a total of $638 million in loans from the Obama administration under the federal health insurance law.

The government said the new nonprofit health insurers will be run by their customers and will be designed to offer coverage to individuals and small businesses. Supporters say the co-ops will keep pressure on private insurance companies for both price and coverage.  (Gouras, Associated Press)



Chris Christie rehashes old facts in budget speech

Gov. Chris Christie leaned on a few tried but not quite true lines Tuesday while presenting his plan for the upcoming budget year.

Unveiling a $32.1 billion spending plan for fiscal year 2013, Christie repeated claims PolitiFact New Jersey previously checked. Here’s a recap of how those statements fared on the Truth-O-Meter.  (O’Neill, PolitiFact New Jersey)



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Wynona’s House funding preserved

In the budget summary accompanying today’s budget address, there are some examples of specific categories and how they will fare in fiscal year 2013.  (Mooney, State Street Wire)



State optimistic recovery will continue, provide foundation for budget

In his budget address today, Gov. Christie emphasized his expectations that the economy is on the rebound in New Jersey.

In an accompanying budget summary issued by the Treasury Department, the state points to what it feels are numerous optimistic signposts: job growth, business confidence, housing growth.  (Mooney, State Street Wire)



Dem leaders: Little benefit for working people in budget proposal

Democratic leaders once again blasted Gov. Chris Christie’s call for an across-the-board income tax cut, saying he’s taking his eye off the real problem of high property taxes that has many residents struggling.

Following the governor’s budget address today, Senate President Steve Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald held a press conference, saying there’s little benefit for working people from Christie’s proposal.  (Hassan, State Street Wire)



Garden State Equality gladdened by ruling

The chair of Garden State Equality today applauded the appellate court ruling that advances their quest for marriage equality.

The state court ruled in favor of the organization’s efforts to pursue a legal right to marry in New Jersey.  (Mooney, State Street Wire)



From the Back Room 



Pascrell stumps in Bergen

When he learned he would be in a Democratic Primary dogfight, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell vowed he would campaign vigorously in the bigger, Bergen portion of the 9th Congressional District.

This weekend, the Passaic-based Democrat did just that, campaigning door-to-door on Sunday in Englewood.  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



  Morning News Digest: February 22, 2012