Morning News Digest: February 24, 2012

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Morning News Digest: February 24, 2012

By Missy Rebovich

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Abbott Districts take hit in new school funding formula

The state’s so called Abbott Districts are among the hardest hit districts under a new school funding formula announced today.

Of the state’s 31 Abbott Districts, 23 will lose funding in the next school year, two will see flat funding and six will see increased funding.

In a conference call with reporters, Acting Commissioner of Education Christopher Cerf outlined a new funding formula that includes changes to the way enrollment is counted and alterations in the awarding of adjustment aid.  According to a report released with the state aid numbers, the state will phase out adjustment aid, which totaled $571 million in the last fiscal year, by 2017.   (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)



Christie proposes $7.8 billion in K-12 formula

Governor Chris Christie today released aid figures for New Jersey school districts based on the Fiscal Year 2013 Budget proposal, including $7.8 billion in K-12 formula aid, an increase of $135 million over last year and part of $213 million in additional state funding for education over Fiscal Year 2012.

The Department of Education also made public the “Education Funding Report,” which outlines measures Christie said would help close the state’s achievement gap – including turning around failing schools and ensuring that every child has an effective teacher in the classroom.  (Staff, PolitickerNJ)



Mercer GOP chairs endorse Beck in CD12

Mercer County Republican Committee Chair David Fried and Co-Chair Maria Bua today endorsed businessman Eric Beck in the race for U.S. Congress in New Jersey’s 12th District.

“I am proud to support Eric for this seat. Central New Jersey needs his voice in Washington, and I believe he is uniquely qualified to represent our hardworking families and take on the economic challenges facing our nation,” said Fried. “As a New Jersey business leader, Eric will present the strongest possible alternative to Rush Holt’s tax-and-spend extremism that is completely out of step with the needs of his district and the country.”  (Staff, PolitickerNJ)



District 1199J Hospital and Health Care Employees endorse Pascrell

New Jersey’s original healthcare union, District 1199J National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees AFSCME AFL-CIO, today endorsed U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-9). 

“Congressman Pascrell has been one of the few policy makers who understands that slash-and-burn budget cuts will have consequences for the services the public relies upon,” said Susan Cleary, president of District 1199J National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees AFSCME AFL-CIO. “He knows that in challenging economic times, collective bargaining is the only way to ensure that public employees and healthcare workers receive fair wages and benefits, and that New Jersey’s residents receive the quality healthcare services they depend on us to provide. Congressman Pascrell fights for us in Congress, and that’s why we stand ready to fight for him.”  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



Flag veto comes back at Christie

A month before his controversial order to honor the late Whitney Houston by flying flags at half-staff, Gov. Christie rejected a bill that would have required the deaths of active New Jersey service members to be reported to local and county leaders to ensure a similar show of respect.

Despite unanimous support from Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature, the Republican governor let the measure die by not signing it. That’s known as a pocket veto.  (Katz, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



Christie: Romney won’t be in trouble if he loses Michigan

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who has endorsed Mitt Romney for president, made the television rounds on Thursday following the 20th GOP debate of the primary season on Wednesday night, defending Romney and saying that a loss in his home state of Michigan would not spell doom for the former Massachusetts Governor.

“Is it bad news? Yes. Is he in trouble? No,” Christie said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “It was clear he was the best of the group and the only one of the group I thought gave us a good chance of being the president. And so nothing that happened last night, or if he were to lose Michigan, would change my evaluation of that.”  (Seligman, National Journal)



Chris Christie clashes with Jonathan Capehart

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie hammered openly gay Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart Thursday in a faceoff over the legalization of gay marriage, which Christie has vetoed in his state.

“I used to be a prosecutor. I’m not going to be cross-examined by you this morning,” said Christie to Capehart in a heated exchange on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “You’re going to lose.”

Earlier on in the show, Christie insisted that his position to strengthen civil unions between gay and lesbian couples is the same as President Barack Obama’s position.

“The Democrats in my state are criticizing me, saying my feet are firmly planted on the wrong side of justice. I said yesterday, ‘yeah, my feet are firmly planted right next to President Obama.’ And they don’t criticize him,” the governor said.  (Mak, Politico)



Christie team underestimates cost of income tax cut

Gov. Chris Christie’s proposed 10 percent across-the-board income tax cut will cost the state budget hundreds of millions of dollars more than previously acknowledged.

Budget documents and public statements by the governor and other administration officials pegged the cost of the phased-in income tax cut at $183.3 million in the first year and just under $1.1 billion when fully implemented.

But an NJ Spotlight analysis showed that the actual first-year cost of the income tax cut is $197.3 million and that the cost when fully implemented in Fiscal Year 2016 could easily top $1.3 billion.  (Magyar, NJ Spotlight)



NJ minimum wage gets boost OK by Assembly panel

Testimony from a low-paid Newark Liberty International Airport wheelchair assistant and from a Moorestown business owner fearing increased costs highlight the challenges facing lawmakers in considering an increase to New Jersey’s minimum wage.

The Assembly Labor Committee cleared a bill from Democrats that would boost the minimum wage to $8.50, from $7.25, and require future adjustments based on the Consumer Price Index, but panel members at the public hearing Thursday were told that the issue creates winners and losers.  (Jordan, Gannett)



Drug treatment expansion sought

Camden County resident Patty DiRenzo says Gov. Chris Christie’s plan to launch a statewide mandatory drug treatment program is laudable but should be widened to bolster underfunded community help centers.

DiRenzo’s son, Salvatore, who was 26, died from a 2010 accidental overdose. The state has 63 residential drug treatment facilities, all with long waiting lists, and DiRenzo said she spent months trying to find a center that would admit Salvatore.  (Jordan, Gannett)



Winners and losers for school aid

The first details are out in Gov. Chris Christie’s trumpeted increase in state aid for New Jersey public schools next year, showing a much more complicated picture that will mean big increases for some schools but sharp cuts for others.

Released late yesterday by Christie’s office, the state aid figures for each district under the governor’s $32.1 billion budget are, at first look, short on clear patterns. Some of the state’s larger urban districts will be hit the hardest in actual dollars, with Camden for instance losing $5.5 million (2 percent) and East Orange $2.9 million (1.7 percent).  (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)



NJ Senator seeks US investigation of NYPD spying

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez is asking federal authorities to investigate the New York Police Department’s surveillance of New Jersey’s Muslim communities.

In a letter Thursday to the U.S. attorney general and CIA director, he expresses concern over Associated Press reports that the NYPD spied on Muslims in Newark and monitored Muslim student groups.

He asks whether protocols were followed with regard to informing New Jersey law enforcement.  (Associated Press)



Pascrell, Rothman square off at forum in Paterson

In their first public debate, Reps. Bill Pascrell Jr. and Steve Rothman answered questions Thursday night about their unusual political predicament as longtime Democratic colleagues battling to unseat each other in a newly redrawn congressional district.

“The final question is, ‘Who do you want in your fox hole?’” Pascrell said before a crowd of more than 100 people at an hour-long forum at Passaic County Community College.  (Shilling and Bautista, The Record)



Employer groups unite against increase to minimum wage

A proposed increase in the state minimum wage, from $7.25 to $8.50 per hour, advanced out of a legislative committee today over united opposition from employer representatives.

The increase was backed by some public policy groups, who contend that the measure will improve conditions for low-wage workers, who will put the money back into the economy.

However, businesses raised concern about the impact on their payrolls.  (Kitchenman, NJBIZ)



EDA backs program to accelerate tech company growth

Technology companies will receive aid in their effort to accelerate their growth under a program sponsored by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.

The EDA announced an agreement on Wednesday with TechLaunch LLC to create the state’s first technology accelerator.

The competitive program will be a 12-week “boot camp” for businesses in which they will receive mentoring and an opportunity to launch a model product that will receive funding.  (Kitchenman, NJBIZ)



Unhappy Rutgers trustees face a ‘devil’s bargain’

The board of trustees of Rutgers University last night held a special meeting to consider a host of options for reorganizing the school, including taking over three units from the University of Dentistry and Medicine and ceding the Camden campus to Rowan University.

It turns out there was only one all-or-nothing offer on the table. If Rutgers wants to annex the medical units it must surrender Camden.  (O’Dea, NJ Spotlight)



PSEG reduces emissions at coal-fired plants, wants rivals to do the same

More than two decades after Congress passed tough new rules to clean up the nation’s air, the chief executive officer of one of the region’s largest power suppliers said yesterday the country should adopt those standards.

“It is time for the nation to implement the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990,’’ Ralph Izzo, chairman and CEO of Public Service Enterprise Group, said yesterday in response to a question from a reporter following the company’s quarterly earnings call.  (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)



N.J. man, boy among 78 to get sick from drinking ‘raw milk’

Two South Jersey residents are among the 78 people in four states recently sickened by consuming unpasteurized milk from a Pennsylvania farm, state officials said today, warning people — especially those with weak immune systems — to avoid “raw milk.”

The milk was produced at Family Cow Dairy, Chambersburg, Pa. and distributed throughout Pennsylvania, which permits the sale of unpasteurized dairy products.  (Livio, The Star-Ledger)



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Fewer towns to receive transitional assistance

Mark down Chesilhurst, Lawnside and Asbury Park as towns that will no longer receive aid under the designation of Transitional Aid.

Rather, they will receive municipal aid just like most towns, or CMPTRA funds. The Department of Community Affairs identified those municipalities and said they do “not have to apply for Transitional Aid in the next year or two.”  (Hassan, State Street Wire)



Dancer is “open” to minimum wage bill

Assemblyman Ron Dancer (R-12) of Plumstead explained his abstention from voting on the minimum wage hike bill at the Assembly Labor Committee hearing Thursday as a way of “keeping an open mind.”

The committee released the bill by a 6-2 vote, along party lines.  (Hassan, State Street Wire)



DEP updates “threatened” and “endangered” species list

The Department of Environmental Protection classified the bald eagle as a “threatened species” and the Cooper’s hawk as “a special concern,” among other changes in its species status list it adopted on Tuesday.

Others, however, like the red knot and American kestrel, did not fare as well, as each of those species saw their populations dwindle. Several other birds cracked one of the lists, due to various scientific factors like population levels, trends, threats, and habitat conditions.  (Hassan, State Street Wire)






Keep religion out of the 9th District primary

I live in New York. If I want to vote in a primary, I have to be registered as a member of a political party. I can’t change that party affiliation on a whim or, even worse, on the suggestion of my religious leader to skew an election at the last minute. Not the case in New Jersey.

There is little I like about the Democratic primary race taking shape for the newly configured 9th Congressional District. I have respected Reps. Bill Pascrell, Jr., D-Paterson, and Steve Rothman, D-Fair Lawn, for many years. While they are different men in many ways, they vote very similarly in Congress. They were mayors. They are loyal Democrats. Now, they are rivals.  (Doblin, The Record)



Case of ex-assemblyman linked to Solomon Dwek exemplifies future of money in politics

Lou Manzo is celebrating the ruling by a federal judge who threw out all charges against the former assemblyman and Jersey City mayoral candidate. He’s got a right to be happy after nearly three years of having his name and the word “indicted” repeated in the same sentence—a right to be relieved after nearly three years of looking at serious jail time.

Manzo was one of the 44 people — mostly Democratic politicians and orthodox Jewish leaders — who were arrested and charged with a bizarre variety of crimes in July, 2009, just weeks before the gubernatorial election.  (Braun, The Star-Ledger)



Morning News Digest: February 24, 2012