Morning News Digest: February 23, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Pascrell to Rothman: Carson’s decision creates perfect opportunity
The news Tuesday that former Giants star Harry Carson does not intend to run for election prompted the Pascrell campaign to renew its call for U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9) to reject his Democrat on Democrat fight and gird for a general election battle against U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett (R-5). (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Not all Republicans on board with Gov.’s budget
Cutting sharply against the notion that Republicans stand at attention when Gov. Chris Christie speaks, a prominent member of the Senate GOP caucus unhappily digested Christie’s budget address Tuesday and blasted it today.
“The governor was put in office because people liked what he did in office as the U.S. Attorney,” said state Sen. Mike Doherty (R-23). “He has the role of a lifetime to make a significant change here and he’s missing an opportunity to go after what has been documented in neon lights as a corrupt system. I would even say it’s corrupt to the core.” (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Christie defends marriage equality CV, half-staff flags for Houston
Gov. Chris Christie this afternoon criticized Democrats on the marriage equality question, challenging them to excoriate President Barack Obama if they want credibility in disparaging his decision to conditionally veto their marriage equality bill.
The president has not publicly described marriage equality as a civil right. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Christie proud of bipartisan link with Norcross, denounces Codey criticism
Gov. Chris Christie doubled down on his message of bipartisanship today as he riffed on his positive relationship with South Jersey Democratic Leader George Norcross III while denouncing former Gov. Richard Codey.
“He puts party ahead of people,” Christie said of Codey during a town hall get-together here.
Answering an audience member’s question about his relations with Norcross, Christie spoke favorably of the powerful South Jersey leader and slammed Codey as the source of public woe over Christie’s connective tissue to South Jersey. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Gov. Christie can’t say it enough: He’s not running for president
Gov. Chris Christie likes to tell town hall audiences that staffers faced with funding requests need only point to the headline on an old New York Magazine profile of him: “The answer is no”.
But this time it’s the Republican governor’s own party that doesn’t seem to want to take no for an answer.
Nearly five months after saying he won’t run for president and declaring “Now is not my time” in a Statehouse packed with national media, Christie said today GOP stalwarts are still asking him to consider it. (Portnoy, The Star-Ledger)
NJ gov: Reports of spying on Muslims ‘disturbing’
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is calling a report of a police surveillance operation targeting Muslims in Newark “disturbing.” He also says he doesn’t recall ever being briefed about the spying in 2007 while he was the state’s top federal prosecutor.
Christie says he has no knowledge of the operation. And he says the New York Police Department wouldn’t have had jurisdiction in New Jersey unless it was working with the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Newark or another agency. Newark’s top officials say the city didn’t know anything about the nature of the NYPD operation. (Associated Press)
Christie condemns anti-Whitney Houston emails
Gov. Chris Christie told a town hall Wednesday that online disparaging comments made about Whitney Houston and his decision to lower flags for her after she died were reprehensible.
The 48-year-old pop star, who was known to have substance abuse problems, died Feb. 11 at a Beverly Hills, Calif., hotel. She was buried a week later at the Newark church where she sang at as a child.
Christie ordered flags flown at half-staff at state government buildings on the day of the funeral, saying Houston deserved the honor because of her huge cultural impact and as “a daughter of New Jersey.” (Delli Santi, Gannett)
The selling of an income tax cut
For Gov. Chris Christie, the politics of the budget is both an inside game and an outside game, one played inside the Beltway in Trenton and inside the TV studios that reach outside to the national audiences that keep Christie’s name at the top of the once and future presidential and vice-presidential preference polls.
And yesterday, one day after a budget speech that echoed with a triumphant Reaganesque “Morning in America” optimism, Christie was hard at work in both political arenas. (Magyar, NJ Spotlight)
Higher ed would pick up six percent under planned 2013 budget
Gov. Chris Christie has long said higher education would be one of his priorities once the state’s fiscal crisis eased. This week he was as good as his word, announcing a 6 percent increase in direct aid to colleges and universities in his fiscal 2013 budget.
But missing from the speech — and his budget — was his long-discussed intention to provide the schools with major facilities help, likely in the form of a capital bond. The state has not seen a major bond for higher education since 1988. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
State aid is staying flat for North Jersey towns
State aid designed to help keep property taxes in check will remain flat for nearly all New Jersey towns, despite a proposed state budget that seeks to increase overall spending by $2 billion.
Only five municipalities – none in Bergen or Passaic counties – appear to be in line for more state aid from the Consolidated Municipal Property Tax Relief program, according to figures released by the state Wednesday. (Reitmeyer and Fletcher, The Record)
Jim McQueeny considering a run for Congress against Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett
Jim McQueeny, a public relations executive and former chief of staff to Sen. Frank Lautenberg is considering a run against Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett, Bergen County Democratic Chairman Louis Stellato said.
The announcement came a day after former Giant and NFL Hall of Famer Harry Carson announced he would not run in the 5th District.
“What he said to me was he had looked into the feasibility of it, but when he saw Carson was there he saw no reason to get into an interparty battle,” Stellato said Wednesday. “Once he got word yesterday Carson was out of the hunt, he jumped right in.” (Hayes, The Record)
Pallone calls for regulation of lead, arsenic in fruit juices
Rep. Frank J. Pallone Jr. was at Acelero Learning Early Childhood Center Wednesday to call for the passage of legislation to protect children from arsenic and lead in fruit juice.
Pallone, the senior Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, was joined at the school by consumer health advocates and concerned parents who support the measure, the Arsenic Prevention and Protection from Lead Exposure in Juice Act of 2012, or APPLE Juice Act of 2012, which he introduced. (Staff, Gannett)
Lautenberg concerned over school merger plan
U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg raised concerns Wednesday over a proposed merger between Rutgers-Camden and Rowan University, asking whether officials had assessed the impact on jobs, tuition costs and other factors.
Also Wednesday, a Rowan spokesman said the Glassboro-based school is seeking an outside law firm to handle merger-related issues. (Walsh, Gannett)
Runyan backs Romney for president
Rep. Jon Runyan, R-N.J., said Wednesday that he supports former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for the Republican presidential nomination.
Runyan, 38, of Mount Laurel, said Romney is the only GOP candidate in the race for the White House who has remained the most viable option as other candidates have risen and fallen in the media spotlight. (Larsen, Gannett)
EPA chief: ‘Fracking’ can be OK
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson told energy industry leaders and environmentalists Wednesday that natural gas fracking can be done without harmful impacts, presenting “an historic opportunity” for the country in terms of energy development and job creation.
“I think that fracking as a technology is perfectly capable of being clean. I do. But it requires people who are doing it and innovators who use the technology to take some time to make sure that it’s done right. And it requires smart regulation, smart rules of the road,” Jackson said. (Jordan, Gannett)
Is the clean energy fund suffering from a surplus of cash?
When asked why he robbed banks, Willie Sutton famously replied because that is where the money is.
Perhaps that same rationale applies to New Jersey’s clean energy program, an apparently golden pot of money that legislators and governors raid annually, a ritual repeated for the past four years.
Instead of financing energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, more than $400 million in money collected from gas and electric customers has been used to balance the state budget, a tactic that has come under increasing criticism from clean energy advocates and utility lobbyists. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
NJ insurers tie doctors’ payments to quality of care
Much of the alarming growth in U.S. healthcare spending has been blamed on how the system pays the bills, with providers compensated for everything they do for patients, regardless of how that care is affecting their health. That has begun to change in New Jersey, where health insurers are piloting new models tied with incentives for improving the quality of care.
The models include quality and performance metrics and expanding the roles of nurses and other healthcare providers to act as advocates for follow-up and preventive medicine. (Fitzgerald, NJ Spotlight)
N.J. nonprofit gets $100M loan to prepare insurance plans for state-run exchange
A new private, nonprofit, consumer-directed health insurance group in New Jersey, sponsored by the Freelancers Union, has been awarded a loan of more than $100 million under the Affordable Care Act to set up and maintain affordable health plans for individuals and small businesses.
“The way people are receiving health insurance and care now is not sustainable,” Freelancers Union President and CEO Sara Horowitz said. “Nonprofit (insurers) will be the future for how people get care in America. We look forward to moving away from a fee-for-service model and focus on integrated health care and (patient-centered) medical homes.” (Eder, NJBIZ)
Newark mayor seeks probe of NYPD Muslim spying
The mayor of New Jersey’s largest city called for state authorities Wednesday to investigate a widespread spying operation conducted in Newark’s Muslim neighborhoods by the New York Police Department that he characterized as “deeply offensive.”
At about the same time Newark Mayor Cory Booker made his remarks, Gov. Chris Christie, once New Jersey’s top federal law enforcement official, called the surveillance “disturbing” and said Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa was already looking into the reports. (Associated Press)
2 popular NJN shows to return to air on NJTV
More than seven months after New Jersey’s state-owned public television network went off the air, its replacement is bringing back two popular shows hosted by press corps dean Michael Aron.
“Reporters Roundtable” and “On the Record with Michael Aron” will begin airing this weekend on NJTV.
“Reporters Roundtable” will be broadcast weekly on Saturdays at 2 p.m., with repeats on Sundays at 7:30 a.m. “On The Record” will air on Saturdays at 5:30 p.m., with repeats on Sundays at 10 a.m. (USA Today)
Even with ‘Jersey Shore,’ N.J. gets higher marks than Newt Gingrich in national poll
If this were USA Today, the headline might read, “We hate New Jersey.”
Variety’s spin might be: “They Say ‘Go Away, NJ.'”
And, of course, the Fox News take: “Myth of global warming traced to Garden State.”
Almost any way you slice ’em, the latest poll numbers show New Jersey’s place in America’s affections is just slightly higher than Newt Gingrich’s.
In surveys by Public Policy Polling, New Jersey was one of only five states with a negative image among American votes. The Raleigh, N.C., firm found only one-quarter of respondents have a “favorable” view of New Jersey, compared to 32 percent who hold an “unfavorable” opinion. (Tyrrell, New Jersey Newsroom)
Senior drivers more at risk in N.J.
A national study of fatal crashes involving senior drivers found that a higher share of senior drivers in New Jersey died in traffic accidents in 2010 in proportion to the number of drivers age 65 and above who hold a license.
The report found that 17 percent of licensed drivers in New Jersey are at least 65, but that senior drivers were 21 percent of those killed in fatal crashes in 2010. It was released Wednesday by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and TRIP, a national nonprofit transportation research group. (Higgs, Gannett)
Minimum wage bill hearing tomorrow
The Assembly Labor Committee will take up the minimum wage bill that calls for raising the rate to $8.50.
The minimum wage was last raised in 2006, to $7.25.
If the bill, A2162, passes, the wage hike would take effect in July. The wages would be adjusted annually, based on the consumer price index, the bill states. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
State colleges and universities to see millions more in state funding in FY ’13 budget
Perhaps heeding President Obama’s warning about states having to do more, the 2013 budget proposed by the Christie Administration calls for more than $80 million more in additional funding for the state’s 12 public colleges and universities.
Throughout much of last year, heads of the state’s public universities had called for greater state investment, mostly to help them upgrade or build new infrastructure. They suggested having a bond referendum in the general election to be approved by the voters. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
NJ awarded loan for healthcare co-op
New Jersey has received a $107 million loan to help start up a non-profit health insurance company run by consumers.
Freelancers Consumer Oriented and Operated Plans (CO-OP) of New Jersey will provide health insurance coverage statewide to both individuals and businesses. The non-profit is sponsored by Freelancers Union – a union of independent workers partnering with providers with an innovative and effective Patient-Centered Medical Home model. The money, in addition to helping with start-up costs, will help it pay claims. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
From the Back Room
Eagleton: 36% of NJ GOP voters favor Romney
New Jersey Republicans continue to prefer former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as their standard-bearer in the battle against President Barack Obama, according to this morning’s Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.
But Romney has yet to solidify his support here. (Staff, PolitckerNJ)
Municipal aid fund totals nearly $1.5 billion
The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) today released municipal state aid figures for the 2013 fiscal year, a funding total of $1,466,700,000.
“No town in the state will see a decrease in formula municipal aid for the upcoming year. This stable funding – coupled with such reforms as the 2% property tax cap, pension and health benefit reform and a 2% cap on interest arbitration awards – is driving down the cost of local government and controlling the property tax problem,” said Governor Chris Christie. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Democrats struggle to counter Christie’s populist message
New Jersey Democrats promise to educate voters on the “meaninglessness” of Governor Christie’s “30-second sound bite” — a promised 10 percent income tax cut.
Christie, meanwhile, conducted his own tutorial at Palisades Park High School on Wednesday. He boiled down his plan into easy-to-digest populism. He explained his plan with a kind of “Fun With Dick and Jane” grade-school book simplicity. (Stile, The Record)
In N.J. tax cut game, both sides have cards to play
As the budget battle begins, Gov. Chris Christie got some good news from a Rutgers-Eagleton poll that shows 52 percent of New Jerseyans like his idea of cutting the income tax by 10 percent across the board.
But if you look closer, it’s not as great as it seems. Because if you ask people if they want free money, you might expect more than 52 percent would say yes. It’s sort of like asking who wants a free neck rub. (Moran, The Star-Ledger)
Income-tax cut is pure political theater and a familiar play that is likely to flop
Here’s a prediction: Gov. Chris Christie has finally picked a fight that he’s going to lose. And no, I’m not willing to put money on it because this governor is a force of nature who could probably make a dog sing if he put his mind to it. But the Big Idea in his budget plan is to cut the income tax, a move that would shower most of its benefits on the wealthiest neighborhoods in the state. (Moran, The Star-Ledger)
Varying motives in gay marriage debate
Gov. Christie vetoed the marriage equality bill, as he said he would. But it was not the outright veto expected. In the hoopla over the veto, you may have missed he vetoed it conditionally. The condition was the suggested appointment of an ombudsman to look into complaints of same-sex couples and make the state’s civil union law stronger.
That made few happy, certainly not the people advocating for marriage equality. (Ingle, Gannett)