Morning News Digest: February 28, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Eagleton: Menendez beats Kyrillos 44-22%
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) beats state Sen. Joe Kyrillos (R-13) 44-22% in a statewide head-to-head, according to this morning’s Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.
An additional 26% say they are unsure and 7% say they would not vote.
An unnamed Republican does better than Kyrillos in the Senate race, though still loses to a generic Democrat by a 46 percent to 34 percent margin. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Governor nominations: taxation, higher education posts
Gov. Christie today filed the following nominations with the State Senate. The Governor’s nominations are subject to the advice and consent of the State Senate. (Staff, State Street Wire)
With meeting scheduled Wednesday, GOP chairs face possibility of a Romney loss in Michigan
Several hardcore Gov. Chris Christie fans within the ranks of county party chairmen wouldn’t see a Mitt Romney loss Tuesday as humiliating for his Jersey pal – so much as a Jersey opportunity party in a brokered convention – but Romney also has backers who aren’t ready to phone in the shovel-ready road crews.
Republican county chairs will watch the returns out of Michigan Tuesday with a particular sense of expectation ahead of a scheduled Wednesday chairmens’ meeting. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Port Authority transparency: Politics or progress?
The deputy director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said politics is at the heart of a bill that cleared the Senate Transportation Committee today.
A co-sponsor of the bill, however, said that the bill has accomplished one of its goals: It has brought the Authority to the table
Deputy Executive Director and former state Sen. Bill Baroni unsuccessfully urged the panel to hold S1115 so that he could work on it with sponsors. (Mooney, PolitickerNJ)
Christie takes his 10 percent income tax cut proposal to the air
Governor Chris Christie is busy making the media rounds promoting his 10 percent across-the-board income tax cut for all New Jerseyans over the next three years.
Christie recently recorded a one-minute radio ad set to begin airing Monday saying failure to enact the $32.1 billion budget he proposed last week would imperil what he calls the “New Jersey comeback.”
“I need your help,” Christie appeals in the ad, “Tell state Assembly leaders to pass our budget, pass the 10 percent tax cut and keep the New Jersey comeback going.” (Sammarco, New Jersey Newsroom)
Obama for America opening N.J. campaign headquarters in North Brunswick
Obama for America will open its New Jersey campaign headquarters in North Brunswick Wednesday evening.
Supporters of President Obama’s re-election bid in November are invited to meet the staff and community leaders and learn about the campaign’s effort to build a grassroots organization.
“We’re thrilled to open our New Jersey headquarters that will serve as a hub for supporters of the president’s to share his vision for a job-creating economy that’s built to last – one where hard work pays, responsibility is rewarded, and everyone does their fair share and plays by the same rules,” Jackie Cornell-Bechelli, Obama for America New Jersey State director, said. “The president and his supporters here in New Jersey and across the country know that the only way to reclaim the economic security that we’ve lost is to restore the basic values of balance and fairness that made our country great.” (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)
Warren Buffett shoots back at Chris Christie
Warren Buffett hit back at Chris Christie on Monday for recently suggesting that the billionaire “just write a check and shut up,” sarcastically calling the New Jersey governor’s remarks “a touching response.”
“It’s sort of a touching response to a $1.2 trillion deficit, isn’t it? That somehow the American people will all send in checks and take care of it?” Buffett said in an interview with CNBC.
Christie had told CNN last week that he was “tired” of hearing about Buffett, as he suggested that if he really wants to pay more to the government, he should keep his mouth shut and go ahead and hand over a check. (Lee, Politico)
Bill to encourage, or force, shared public services in N.J. approved by Senate committee
Legislation designed to encourage local governments to share public services as a way to cut costs was approved by the state Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee Monday.
The proposal (S-2) would require state’s Local Unit Alignment, Reorganization, and Consolidation Commission (LUARCC) to study municipal governments to determine where taxpayer dollars could be saved through sharing of services. If the study shows that a savings can be realized in one or more local governments or departments, the question of whether to do so or not would be put to a public referendum in all cities or towns involved, assuming those municipalities do not enter into a shared services agreement on their own. (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)
N.J. DYFS to get new name a new mission, commissioner says
The state child welfare agency is not only getting a new name, but also a narrower mission that could include farming out some of its duties to nonprofit groups after nearly a decade of tremendous change and growth in spending and staff.
Department of Children and Families Commissioner Allison Blake said she is considering whether community organizations can do a better job working with low-risk families than the Division of Youth and Family Services, which she announced last week will be renamed the Division of Child Protection and Permanency. (Livio, The Star-Ledger)
Senate hears bill on health insurance exchange
A bill to create a New Jersey health insurance exchange — an online virtual marketplace where consumers and small businesses will buy health coverage — heads for its first hearing in the Senate today.
The legislation () isn’t likely to have a smooth time of it: The state’s heath insurers oppose the bill, unhappy with the amount of power it vests in the insurance exchange’s governing board. They argue that the board will limit consumer choice and stifle competition. Some consumer advocates, however, argue that the board should have more power. (Fitzgerald, NJ Spotlight)
Booker endorses Christie’s school reforms
Newark Mayor Cory A. Booker said Monday that he backs Gov. Chris Christie’s education reform measures — including school choice and teacher tenure changes — but he is critical of the new plan for higher education.
Booker, a Democratic rising star often mentioned as a possible gubernatorial contender next year to Christie, a Republican, made the comments during a meeting Monday with the Asbury Park Press editorial board.
Booker said he liked a new teacher tenure bill, sponsored by an Essex County state senator. That bill would end tenure as a lifetime job guarantee and force teachers to show they are proficient in their jobs or face possible dismissal or added risk for being laid off. (Method, Gannett)
Bills target N.Y.-N.J. port authority
Two measures that would end perks enjoyed by Port Authority of New York and New Jersey employees and help assure toll-payers that their money was spent responsibly received the Senate Transportation Committee’s endorsement Monday.
The Port Authority, which runs area bridges, tunnels, and transit hubs and owns the World Trade Center site, has been tarnished by audits showing rising employee compensation, excessive overtime, and ballooning debt. The agency’s finances came under scrutiny in August when the board approved steep toll increases at New Jersey-New York crossings that outraged many commuters. (Delli Santi, Associated Press)
N.J. recycling efforts get state aid boost
New Jersey’s 21 county governments will share $5.5 million in state aid to help them enhance local recycling efforts, the state Department of Environmental Protection announced Monday.
“Recycling remains one of our top priorities,” DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said. “We are quickly approaching the 25th anniversary of the Mandatory Source Separation and Recycling Act, the landmark law that made New Jersey the first state to require recycling.
“We are working hard to find ways to improve recycling rates and re-energize recycling efforts across all sectors of our state,” Martin added. “These Recycling Enhancement Act grants are an important part of this effort.” (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)
Lawmakers, environmentalists want NJ back in Greenhouse Gas Initiative
Nine months after Gov. Chris Christie vowed to pull New Jersey out of a regional effort to curb pollution that contributes to global climate change, clean energy advocates and lawmakers renewed efforts to require the state to rejoin the initiative.
The Senate Environment and Energy Committee yesterday voted unanimously, joined by a Republican legislator, to vote out a bill (
http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/12/0228/0356/) that would force the state to participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a 10-state cooperative effort that established a cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Will NJ go public with teacher ratings?
When New York City last week posted the performance ratings for thousands of its public school teachers online, it raised concerns about the fairness of the data and the accuracy of the ratings themselves.
It also brought up questions on this side of the Hudson River as to whether public grades for teachers would be coming to New Jersey next, as this state develops its own teacher evaluation system.
Yesterday, acting education commissioner Chris Cerf tried to quell worries and said he would be against public disclosure of individual teachers’ scores. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Pascrell lashes out at Rothman
A pugnacious Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. laced into his opponent in the 9th District Democratic primary Monday, telling the editorial board of The Record that Rep. Steve Rothman “likes to be a victim” and decided not to run against Republican Rep. Scott Garrett “to preserve his fanny.”
Pascrell also criticized President Obama for not getting a better deal during last summer’s debt-limit negotiations, saying the president should have held out for a multiyear transportation bill. (Jackson, The Record)
Next step for Health Department reorganization
Gov. Chris Christie’s reorganization of the Department of Health and Senior Services and the Department of Human Services, announced in last week’s budget address, will move forward unless the Legislature goes through an official rejection process.
The reorganization, which moves all senior-related services to the Department of Human Services and several major hospital funding pools to the Health Department, is expected to be implemented through an executive reorganization plan, according to the Governor’s Office. (Caliendo, NJBIZ)
Pair putting health care at forefront
Louis D. Greenwald‘s promotion to Assembly majority leader gained attention this winter, as his position on health care and his partnership with Dr. Jeffrey Brenner seem aligned to impact the industry as reform efforts are implemented.
As founder and executive director of the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers, Brenner launched a pilot accountable-care program with the help of Greenwald’s sponsorship in the Legislature, and Greenwald (D-Voorhees) said that program is ripe for expansion. He has supported the accountable-care model, in which provider reimbursements are tied to measurements of health care quality and reductions in the cost for providing care to an assigned population of patients. (Kitchenman, NJBIZ)
New Jersey’s looming foreclosure crisis
Foreclosure irregularities are as common in New Jersey as they are in San Francisco, where a recent audit revealed problems in almost every case studied, according to homeowner advocates.
But that’s where the similarities end.
San Francisco went public with its foreclosure problems. In New Jersey, the county clerks and sheriff’s officers who are responsible for making sure that all aspects of foreclosures are handled properly have raised an alarm with the attorney general, governor, and the legislature. (Tyrrell, NJ Spotlight)
State lease of Monmouth Park to horsemen group moves forward
State officials are close to finishing a deal to lease Monmouth Park to the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, which would take over operations at the racetrack on May 1, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority said Monday.
The agency’s board of commissioners today authorized President and CEO Wayne Hasenbalg to complete the lease agreement. Under the deal, the sports authority would lease the Oceanport venue for five years, followed by three 10-year renewal options for the horsemen that would require rent payments starting at $250,000. (Burd, NJBIZ)
Pallone: Edison company aids effort to reduce dependence on foreign oil
Rep. Frank J. Pallone Jr. visited the Eos Energy Storage facility in Raritan Center on Monday to support an “all-of-the-above” approach to American energy production.
A diversified effort, including development of new technologies, will protect consumers from rising gas prices at the pump, said Pallone, D-N.J., a member of the House Energy and Commerce and House Natural Resources committees. Gas prices have reached an average $3.58 a gallon in New Jersey, a 8-cent rise from last week, he said. (Makin, Gannett)
Congressmen visit schools to promote love of reading
School children are getting a head start on Read Across America, a national pep rally for reading held every year during children author Dr. Seuss’s birthday on March 2.
Elementary students at East Amwell Township School will have daily events to promote reading this week. But school officials say reading is encouraged throughout the school year.
“We want the students to have a love and appreciation for reading and for them to know that it can be fun,” district spokeswoman Hillary Della Penna said. (Bichao, Gannett)
Incinerator authority bill advances
The Senate Urban Affairs Committee released bill S872, which would allow incinerator authorities to conduct other public services.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Sandra Cunningham, (D-31), Jersey City, would authorize the Jersey City Incinerator Authority to continue offering other functions. It is unlike other incinerator entities that solely dispose of waste. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
N.J. Health Benefit Exchange Act released from Senate Commerce Committee
Following approximately three and a half hours of testimony in the Senate Commerce Committee, S1319, known as the “New Jersey Health Benefit Exchange Act,” was released by a 4-2 vote along party lines on Monday afternoon.
The bill would create a statewide health insurance exchange pursuant to the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. (Smith, State Street Wire)
Oroho: UI tax rate bill needs to be revenue-neutral
One of the sponsors of a bill dealing with unemployment insurance tax rates that was held from committee today said they want to work to make sure the bill treats employers fairly.
Steven Oroho, (R-24), Sparta, said regarding S1121 that “we want to try to make it revenue-neutral.’’ (Mooney, State Street Wire)
Bill dealing with sewer overflows, flame retardants, more cleared in Senate Energy Comm.
A bill that would authorize a county, town or authority to regulate combined sewer overflows to manage storm water runoff (S1557) was released from the Environment and Energy Committee by a 3-1 vote on Monday morning. The bill would also authorize the government entities to impose fees.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Bob Smith, (D-17), of Piscataway, said that even though the governor vetoed a similar storm water utility bill, he hoped to “raise this up the flag pole and see what happens.” (Staff, State Street Wire)
Homestead program is Christie’s fallback
A two-syllable “tax cut” is much easier to sell as a sound bite than the clunky “Homestead Benefit Program.”
Voters can actually see the benefit of an income tax cut. They might need a magnifying glass to find it in their weekly paychecks – an extra $1.50 a week for those earning $50,000 and that’s only after Governor Christie fully phases in a 10 percent cut over three years. By 2014, you might have enough money to buy an extra cup of coffee each week. (Stile, The Record)
N.J. residents still face rising costs
Gov. Chris Christie, appearing on the CBS Sunday news program Face the Nation this week, jokingly said that citizens of New Jersey would become disoriented by having their income taxes lowered for three straight years.
Christie was talking about his plan to phase in a 10 percent income tax cut over the next three years.
The fate of the plan, unveiled during his State of the State address in January, is far from sure. Democrats in the Legislature aren’t as enthusiastic as the governor about the proposal, which follows two years of austerity budgets where spending was tightly controlled. (Schoonejongen, Gannett)
After losing daughter to sudden cardiac arrest, Warren family lobbies for new law
She sat in the car, hands gripping the steering wheel, her face washed in her own tears. Before her stretched the complex of green athletic fields that looked exactly the way it did on that brutal day just two weeks earlier. Somehow, Karen Zilinski slid out of her car and began walking, first on gravel, then on grass, toward the scores of children and the adult coaches. She wept.
Suddenly, she felt arms reach for her and heard familiar voices, the voices of friends. One said, “You’re not doing this alone.’’ (Braun, The Star-Ledger)