Morning News Digest: March 30, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Christie says Romney should ‘ignore the other guys’
During the question and answer session of a Manchester town hall meeting this afternoon, Gov. Chris Christie said that Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney should look past the competing Republicans and set his sights on the White House.
A member of the public asked Christie how the national Republican Party could stop the infighting during the primaries and unite before the election against President Barack Obama. (Smith, PolitickerNJ)
As Dems worry about intra-party scuffle, Lautenberg fights back armed with DRPA report
Democrats observed the ongoing Lautenberg/Norcross cage match with dismay, worried that once again Gov. Chris Christie stands to gain from an intraparty fight, but a state comptroller’s report detailing alleged waste and abuse at the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) today gave U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) an opportunity to batter his South State rival, George Norcross III, with a renewed sense of authority.
Whoever wins the battle of Democratic heavyweights matters little to some rank and file members who just see Democrats feeding on Democrats. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Healy: Fulop better for Wall Street than Jersey City
Jersey City Mayor Jerry Healy heartily embraced a blue-collar brand in trying to isolate rival downtown Councilman Steve Fulop from the bulk of his Hudson County city.
“We’re happy that Steve has made enough money to leave the one percenters on Wall Street, but clearly he lives in a reality far different than the majority of Jersey City residents who cannot afford to take a year off from work,” said Healy, responding to Fulop’s email blast today that he is leaving his job on Wall Street to campaign full time for mayor. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Korean Americans organize as Weinberg restates Kwon rejection was on the facts alone
Korean Americans want to try to figure out how to regroup in the aftermath of Philip Kwon’s failed bid for the state Supreme Court, but they shouldn’t make state Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37) the payback target, Weinberg told PolitickerNJ.com.
“We’re trying to figure out what went wrong,” said Andrew Kim, former Fort Lee Korean American Association president and the 2010 NJ Korean American Census Task Force chairman. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Comptroller blasts DRPA abuses, hidden insurance payments
State Comptroller Matthew Boxer yesterday issued a scathing report on patronage abuses and insurance practices at the Delaware River Port Authority. These include payments totaling $455,000 to South Jersey Democratic leader George Norcross’s firm and an associated broker that a New Jersey insurance company characterized as a “referral fee” for lining up the DRPA account.
Norcross told the Comptroller’s Office that the payments by Willis of New Jersey to Commerce Insurance Services (now Conner Strong & Buckelew) were for a marketing agreement unrelated to the DRPA, a bistate authority that has been a favorite target of Republican Governor Chris Christie for the wasteful practices that Boxer detailed in a 77-page report yesterday. (Magyar, NJ Spotlight)
NJ gov suggests US Sen. Lautenberg should retire
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie suggested Thursday that U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg should retire, saying the 88-year-old statesman should be ashamed of himself for opposing a plan to merge two South Jersey universities.
Earlier this week, Lautenberg, a Democrat, wrote a letter to the U.S. education secretary requesting a federal review of a plan to merge Rutgers-Camden with Rowan University, suggesting it was meant as nothing more than a power grab by South Jersey political power broker George Norcross in order boost the credit rating of Rowan, which has reached a borrowing limit in its commitment to build the Cooper Medical School of Rowan University. (DeFalco, Associated Press)
Budget review: School aid, pricey consultants are scrutinized
The Christie administration’s education budget was first up for the Democrat-controlled legislature’s review yesterday, facing a barrage of questions from the fairness of its funding for local schools to the high-priced consultants hired inside the state department itself.
The target of the mostly polite questioning was acting education commissioner Chris Cerf, who with his top staff, sat through more than four hours of inquiry from the Senate budget committee about his decisions and policies on a broad range of topics, not all of them budget related. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Experts: Rosy prediction for U.S. employment rebound doesn’t apply in N.J.
While research from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York presents a positive outlook for the nation’s unemployment rate in 2013, experts in New Jersey said unemployment in the Garden State will stay above federal levels well past that date.
“There’s no one industry sector that I see putting the state above the country,” said Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors. “Employment in the state will grow only because the national economy is growing, but there won’t be anything special in-state to reduce unemployment.” (Eder, NJBIZ)
Port Authority approves pay cuts for some
The commissioners of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey voted to slash perks and bonuses for their non-union staff, and the slate of proposed changes received a warm reception from some officials Thursday morning.
“This is going to be potentially painful to the team members,” said Scott Rechler, a vice chairman appointed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, at a meeting of the Port Authority board’s operations committee. “But it’s also the responsible thing to do for the agency.” (Mann, The Wall Street Journal)
Security shakeup at Port Authority
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will overhaul its security operation for the first time in decades, centralizing control over its police force and safety officials at its bridges, airports, bus terminals and the World Trade Center.
The agency’s Board of Commissioners on Thursday voted unanimously to create a Security Department within the agency. A new chief security officer will oversee the Port Authority Police Department and help coordinate safety policies across the agency’s properties and divisions. (Mann, The Wall Street Journal)
N.J. executives kept a close eye on Affordable Care Act proceedings
With oral arguments complete, New Jersey business leaders are now playing wait-and-speculate as the Supreme Court justices prepare to deliberate on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.
The most interesting argument to many observers was about the individual mandate clause, which requires individuals to purchase health insurance. Justice Antonin Scalia asked whether, if Congress could require people to purchase health care insurance, it also could require people to purchase broccoli, because it also is good for people. (Caliendo, NJBIZ)
US Senate rejects Menendez bill to cut oil industry tax breaks
Sen. Bob Menendez’s bill to cut tax breaks for the five largest oil companies was rejected Thursday, just days after an overwhelming majority had voted to debate it.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., accused Democrats of trying to stage “political show votes” because they would not allow any amendments to the bill, which would eliminate tax breaks worth an estimated $24 billion over the next 10 years. (Jackson, The Record)
Park service OKs unpopular power line in NJ Highlands
Handing a major victory to electric utilities, the National Park Service yesterday selected a route for a contentious high-voltage power line through three sections of the national park system in the New Jersey Highlands.
The $1 billion project, developed by Public Service Electric & Gas and PPL Electric Utilities Corp., calls for building a new 145-mile transmission line, virtually all of it along the route of an 85-year-old power line from Berwick, Pa., to Roseland in Essex County. (Johnson, NJ Spotilght)
Poll: New Jersey backs Muslim surveillance
The majority of New Jersey voters support the New York Police Department’s practice of monitoring Muslims living in the region, according to a new poll.
A Rutgers-Eagleton poll released Friday found 47% of voters agreed that the monitoring was necessary to protect the country. Another 12% thought the police tactic violated civil liberties but supported the practice anyway.
In total, about a third of the 601 adults surveyed in March thought the NYPD had violated civil liberties through its surveillance program. (Haddon, The Wall Street Journal)
Christie’s tax comment on radio angers Medford officials
Medford Township officials are furious at Gov. Christie for suggesting on a radio show this week that they are trying to scare voters into approving a tax increase that exceeds the state’s 2 percent cap. Christie urged voters to “call the bluff.”
Councilman Jeff Beenstock fired off an e-mail Tuesday to the governor saying, “I do not believe your statement last night with respect to Medford was accurate or fair, and is likely to result in people voting against the referendum without understanding the situation we are in.” (Hefler, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Officials announce expanded program to spur supermarket development
With what will be New Brunswick’s newest supermarket as a backdrop, state officials and business leaders today announced an expanded program to spur and finance the development of grocery stores in New Jersey’s most underserved regions.
The New Jersey Food Access Initiative, funded in large part by $12 million from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, seeks to drastically increase access to affordable fresh food across the state, those involved with the program said. The fund will emphasize growth in 10 cities, including New Brunswick, where the state has pushed redevelopment in recent years. (Burd, NJBIZ)
New Atlantic City ad campaign puts focus on destination
The Atlantic City Alliance has begun filming for two ads promoting the “city on the ocean” as a vacation spot beyond a gaming town — part of an aggressive marketing campaign that will include magazine, newspaper and radio ads splashed across the region from New York to Baltimore, according to the organization.
The ad blitz, expected to begin April 16, will tout the resort city’s dining, shopping, e
ntertainment and access to public golf courses, among other amenities, said Liza Cartmell, president of the nonprofit Atlantic City Alliance promotional organization. (Tarbous, NJBIZ)
O’Malley: Bruce Springsteen born to run for governor
When Bruce Springsteen performs Sunday night at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley may or may not be there (“I need to find some tickets,” he said), but his Springsteen fandom bona fides will remain intact whatever happens.
“This guy has been the soundtrack of my life,” said the 49-year-old O’Malley, who’s seen more than a dozen Springsteen shows. “It was not unusual when he would play the Capital Centre for me to go to two shows during a stretch … when I was in high school.” (O’Malley was ready for his interview with POLITICO, having teed up Springsteen’s latest album, Wrecking Ball, on his office’s Bose CD player when we walked in). “I would always go out and get whatever his new thing was.” (Gavin, Politico)
Oroho, Van Drew want to close educational funding gaps in their districts
Two lawmakers – one Republican and one Democrat – hope to introduce bipartisan legislation within the next couple of weeks to call for closing the state education funding gap that exists within their legislative districts due to lower costs-of-living in those areas. (Arco, State Street Wire)
Christie touts tax cuts and constituent service record in town hall meeting
In the friendly confines of Ocean County, where Gov. Chris Christie defeated former Gov. Jon Corzine by over 70,000 votes in 2009, the governor touted his tax-cutting record and constituent service responses in a standing room only town hall meeting this afternoon. (Smith, State Street Wire)
Rep. Smith says new autism figures cause for alarm
U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, (R-4), says new national figures that detail the rising prevalence of autism disorders should put adults on high alert.
The congressman spoke to State Street Wire on the heels of a new Centers for Disease Control study released Thursday that found cases of autism are on the rise in the United States. According to the study, about 1 in 88 children nationally showed signs of autism disorders – up from previous estimates of 1 in 110. (Arco, State Street Wire)
Insurers defend actions in light of Comptroller report
Two insurance titans whose actions drew the attention of the state Comptroller’s office during its investigation of the Delaware River Port Authority defended their actions today.
Both Conner Strong and Willis said they had done nothing illegal. Conner Strong is run by South Jersey Democratic power broker George Norcross, and Willis is run by former N.J. Sports and Exposition Authority commissioner Joe Plumeri. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
From the Back Room
As of right now, Mercer GOP conceding county
As of their Mercer County Republican Committee convention earlier this month, the Mercer GOP has assembled no slate to represent the party in this year’s freeholder races.
The Mercer GOP is still broken, a mortified member reported. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Governor Christie goes to Israel
Governor Chris Christie and his family will be travelling to Israel next Sunday, April 1 through Thursday, April 5. He will be following the tradition of the special sister-state relationship between Israel and New Jersey that was established by former Governor Tom Kean in a 1988 executive order.
I have been to Israel eighteen times, including two trips with governors Tom Kean and Christie Whitman. A mission to Israel led by a New Jersey governor can be a most meaningful experience for both New Jerseyans and Israelis, as I learned on both these trips. (Steinberg for PolitickerNJ)
Death and redistricting
If I can rephrase a famous line, nothing is more certain than death and redistricting to create interesting elections. In 2012 in New Jersey, we are looking at three races set up by the deaths of John Adler and Donald Payne and the redistricting of Bill Pascrell’s old 8th district into Steve Rothman’s old 9th. There is also one new challenge of a Congressman by a state legislator worth mentioning (Aron for NJ Spotlight)
At this point, Gov. Christie’s Rutgers-Rowan merger is all questions, no answers
Gov. Chris Christie and Camden County Democratic political boss George Norcross, neither known for expertise in higher education, are pushing through a plan to transform a former state teachers college, Rowan University, into “major public research university.”
It will cost a lot of money.
What do we know about how this plan will work? Not much. The governor says not to worry and discusses implementation as “plumbing.” What research went into proving it’s a good idea? Not much there, either. All we know is that Christie and Norcross and their minions want it and he calls people who disagree — well, at least one person — a “jerk” and an “idiot.” (Braun, The Star-Ledger)
School’s parents take a stand on nothing
Some say today’s youth have no focus and care only about themselves, but I don’t find that the case universally. The education system overall seems subpar compared to when I was in school, but the kids I talk to are more tolerant and objective about the world around them.
The 32 students in grades 9 through 12 at Notre Dame High School, a Catholic institution in Lawrence, were excited over their spring play, “The Laramie Project,” until parents started calling school administrators and the Diocese of Trenton, complaining about the work, which I bet none of them had seen or read. (Ingle, Gannett)