Morning News Digest: May 24, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
In News 12 debate in Teaneck, Pascrell hounds Rothman on decision not to face Garrett
After diving into a five-month slugfest together, the contestants in the CD 9 Democratic Primary appeared poised to strive for aloof statesmanlike sound bites tonight in their News 12 debate.
But it didn’t work out the way.
In a political insider environment fast branding him too punch happy, a more toned down U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman initially presented himself for his faceoff with U.S. Bill Pascrell. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Orange Mayor-elect Warren backs Payne in CD 10
Orange Mayor-Elect Dwayne Warren today endorsed U.S. Rep. Donald Payne for Congress in the 10th district.
“Working people in Orange deserve a Congressman who will fight for them,” said Warren. “That’s what Donald Payne has done in Newark, and it’s what he’ll do for the whole Congressional district,” said Warren, who won the contest to be Orange’s next mayor on May 8th. “He knows how to create jobs, and he does things the right way.”
The Communications Workers of America (CWA) took credit for propelling Warren to victory over incumbent Eldridge Hawkins, Jr. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Dems defend OLS budget chief’s professionalism
It happened last year, and it has happened again.
In the heat of budget-crafting season last spring and this, Gov. Chris Christie sharply criticized the Office of Legislative Services whose revenue projections differed markedly from the Treasury Department’s projections.
Christie this morning went so far as to refer to OLS budget chief David Rosen as the “Dr. Kevorkian’’ of numbers.
Rebuttal from legislative Democrats this afternoon was swift and equally harsh. (Mooney, PolitickerNJ)
Christie plugs $676 million hole with borrowing, one-shots
While Governor Christie’s treasurer laid out plans to fill what it says is a $676 million budget gap with borrowing, fund transfers, and other one-shot revenues, the Legislature’s nonpartisan budget expert warned that state tax collections could still come up another $627 million short — if not more.
It’s much more than a disagreement over numbers, as Christie demonstrated yesterday by launching a vicious public attack on the integrity of David Rosen, the Office of Legislative Services budget officer, for daring to suggest that tax collections this year and next year will come in $1.3 billion lower than Christie projected in his February budget speech. (Magyar, NJ Spotlight)
NJ budget shortfall will force cuts in transportation, clean energy programs
Governor Christie is planning to raid New Jersey’s clean energy and transportation funds — but not scale back his proposed income tax cut — now that a $676 million budget shortfall has punctured his “Jersey Comeback.”
That shortfall was announced by the Christie administration during an Assembly Budget and Appropriations Committee meeting Wednesday, with the state treasurer acknowledging to lawmakers that the Republican governor’s spending plans must be revised because Christie overestimated the scale of the state’s economic recovery.
The governor’s earlier estimates predicted a state economy that would outpace any other state in the country and be enough for tax cuts and increased spending. (Reitmeyer, The Record)
Some sketchy good news has to suffice as NJ Transportation conference
Their train never left the station, but members of the New Jersey Alliance for Action remained optimistic that they might ultimately connect with other transportation links across the state.
Gov. Chris Christie’s attack on Democratic legislators overshadowed transit issues at the alliance’s annual transportation conference at the Trenton Marriott. An audience of contractors, engineers, consultants, and bureaucrats gobbled up the Governor’s partisan red meat, giving him standing ovations on arrival and departure. (Tyrrell, NJ Spotlight)
High court pick has ‘his work cut out for him’
His nomination has yet to be heard, but already Democratic leaders have dismissed the first openly gay man picked for the Supreme Court, civil rights advocates are softening their support for him and Republicans are left struggling to prevent a second rejection of Governor Christie’s nominees.
“If I were a betting man, I wouldn’t bet on him,” said Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-Union, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which is expected to hold a confirmation hearing for Bruce Harris next Thursday. “He’s got his work cut out for him.” (Patberg, The Record)
N.J. Bar Association is OK with Gov. Christie’s choice for Supreme Court
The New Jersey State Bar Association declared a state Supreme Court nominee of Gov. Chris Christie qualified after a confidential review, sources said, but members of the Senate Judiciary Committee said today they would make their own decision after confirmation hearings next week.
Two sources with knowledge of the bar association’s decision said the organization deemed the nominee, Bruce Harris, and First Assistant State Attorney General Phillip Kwon — who was rejected by the judiciary committee in March — suitable to sit on the state’s highest court. (Spoto and Portnoy, The Star-Ledger)
Business leaders look for Christie to maintain tax cuts
Officials with the state’s two largest business organizations are looking for Gov. Chris Christie to maintain tax cuts as part of a revised budget proposal.
State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff is expected to announce proposed revisions to the budget proposal today to account for a projected budget shortfall.
New Jersey Chamber of Commerce President Thomas A. Bracken said it’s important to the business community that the state cut taxes. (Kitchenman, NJBIZ)
New Jersey: A poll, robocalls and Presidential politics
With less than two weeks until the primary, today was a big day in the Member-versus-Member race between Democratic Reps. Bill Pascrell and Steven Rothman of New Jersey.
Before the close of business, political observers got their first glimpse of polling, the Pascrell camp released robocalls from President Bill Clinton and Obama senior adviser David Axelrod made news while campaigning for Rothman in the district.
In the poll, Rothman had the support of 43.8 percent of respondents, while 43.3 percent of those surveyed said they would back Pascrell. (Livingston, Roll Call)
At third Rothman-Pascrell debate, a kinder, gentler exchange
The third and final debate between Steve Rothman and Bill Pascrell in their rancorous primary battle in the 9th Congressional District produced one surprise on Wednesday: a somewhat kinder and gentler discussion of issues.
Unlike two previous debates this month, during which the two Democratic congressmen attacked each other for their voting records and campaign ads, their encounter in Teaneck before the citizen’s group Bergen Grassroots produced fewer fireworks and considerably more agreement. (Ensslin, The Record)
U.S. Congressional Race: District 8
Two Democratic candidates — Michael J. Shurin and incumbent U.S. Rep. Albio Sires — are squaring off for their party’s nomination in the 8th Congressional District.
Sires currently represents District 13, but last December the districts were redrawn and the 13th essentially became the 8th as a result of population changes and New Jersey’s loss of its 13th congressional representative.
The redistricting has resulted in a something of a game of musical chairs, and the most closely watched Democratic primary in the state — and beyond — between Steve Rothman and William Pascrell. Essentially, Pascrell’s district was 8, but now he legitimately lives in the 9th; Rothman was in the 9th, was redistricted into the 5th and then moved back into the 9th. (Kassel, NJ Spotlight)
U.S. Congressional Race: District 10
The death of one of New Jersey’s most significant congressmen has created a power vacuum in the Newark area — and much like a roadside motel, politics abhors a vacancy.
When U.S. Rep. Donald Payne, D-10th, died on March 6, New Jersey lost its first African-American congressman, a man known for his support of education at home and opposition to human rights abuses abroad. The Newark native served in Congress for 23 years, usually facing little or no opposition in elections.
By contrast, the June 5 Democratic primary has attracted six would-be successors, including four who already hold prominent political offices: two Newark Councilmen, Payne’s son, Donald Jr., and Ron Rice Jr., son of the state senator; Irvington Mayor Wayne Smith; state Sen. Nia Gill, (D-Essex). Dennis Flynn of Glen Ridge, and Cathy Wright of Newark round out the ballot. (Tyrrell, NJ Spotlight)
Assembly Race: District 16
The special June 5 primary election to select a Democratic Assembly candidate in the 16th Legislative District presents voters with a clear choice: a teacher who became a YouTube sensation for publicly sparring with Gov. Christie or the deputy mayor from a municipality recently added to the district.
Marie Corfield, an arts teacher from Flemington, will face off against Sue Nemeth, the deputy mayor of Princeton Township, for a spot on the November ballot. The winner will take on Republican incumbent Donna Simon in the fall. (Bonamo, NJ Spotlight)
Marijuana decriminalization bill is up for full N.J. Assembly vote
The New Jersey Assembly is set to vote on a bill that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Today’s vote comes days after the chamber’s Judiciary Committee approved the measure unanimously.
Fifteen Democrats and three Republicans are co-sponsors of the bill. It makes possession of up to a half-ounce of marijuana a civil offense punishable by fines of $100 to $500.
Repeat violators and those who are under age 18 would be referred to drug counseling.
A companion bill has been introduced in the Senate but hasn’t had a hearing. Gov. Chris Christie hasn’t taken a position on the legislation. (Goldman, The Star-Ledger)
Public hearing on Rutgers-UMDNJ merger set for next week
While legislators and university officials meet behind closed doors to negotiate a compromise, the public will get a chance next week to weigh in on the proposed restructuring of New Jersey’s higher education system.
State Sen. Ronald Rice (D-Newark) will host a hearing at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Newark City Hall to focus on how health care in the state’s largest city will be affected by the proposed merger of Rutgers University and parts of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.
“We’re bringing folks to the table because we know that this has a much wider impact than just the status of higher education in New Jersey,” Rice said. (Heyboer, The Star-Ledger)
NJ Assembly to vote to require NJ to rejoin program on greenhouse gas emissions
In a legislative do-over, the state Assembly is set to vote Thursday on a bill that would require New Jersey to rejoin a nine-state program designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The legislation is similar to bills that Governor Christie vetoed last summer after calling the program a failure. The coalition of northeastern states, called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, is a cap-and-trade program designed to reduce overall carbon emissions by power companies in those states. It requires utilities in the states to buy credits for each ton of carbon they emit. The credits are sold through public auctions, and the states use the revenue to pay for renewable energy and clean technology programs. (O’Neill, The Record)
Hamilton assemblymen propose limits on politicians’ legal defense fundraisers
The township’s two Democratic assemblymen say they will introduce a bill requiring politicians to follow state campaign finance and pay-to-play laws when holding legal defense fundraisers.
The announcement comes as critics have raised questions about a fundraiser Mayor John Bencivengo will hold June 5. Bencivengo is fighting federal corruption charges after he was accused of accepting $12,400 in bribes from the school district’s insurance broker. (Brill, The Times of Trenton)
N.J. human services department rolls out ‘involuntary outpatient commitment program’
The state Department of Human Services is rolling out a psychiatric program which would treat some of the neediest mental health patients — even if they might say they do not want treatment, the state’s Department of Human Services announced today.
The “involuntary outpatient commitment” program will grant $1.7 million to five behavioral health providers, nearly three years after the state Legislature passed the 2009 law allowing the state’s courts to require patients to undergo treatment if they are deemed a danger to themselves or other people. (Augenstein, The Star-Ledger)
Administration offers solar sector a patch—not a permanent fix
The Christie administration yesterday threw a lifeline to the floundering New Jersey solar sector, but even it acknowledges that more needs to be done to fix the once flourishing industry.
In approving an extension of utility-sponsored solar programs, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities took action to help revive the residential and small business solar market, a sector that has been hammered by a sharp decline in prices owners of solar arrays earn for the systems on their homes and businesses. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Prudential’s landlords mount challenge to transit hub incentive
State officials overlooked millions of dollars in potential real estate and infrastructure costs when they offered Prudential Financial a tax credit to build a new office tower in Newark, according to the group of landlords that is protesting the award.
The incentive package is scheduled to go back before the Economic Development Authority June 1, as the agency’s board considers an amendment to the $250.8 million Urban Transit Hub tax credit offered to Prudential last year. But the landlords for three buildings at Newark’s Gateway Center, which stand to lose the insurance giant as a tenant, have stepped up their challenge of the incentive with a formal protest. (Burd, NJBIZ)
Democrats close ranks on Bain
Democrats and the White House defended attacks on Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital on Tuesday, calling them “fair game” and dismissing party infighting over the issue.
Senior administration officials said President Barack Obama’s campaign will continue to attack Romney’s record at the private equity company as well as his record as governor of Massachusetts as part of a larger narrative aimed at middle-class voters.
And several Senate Democrats echoed the attacks Tuesday, charging that the style of capitalism espoused by Romney helped investors at the expense of workers for decades.
“His business was to get rid of workers,” Sen. Frank Lautenberg said. (Dennis, Roll Call)
Cory Booker set to discuss political future on Oprah’s new OWN show
Old friends Oprah Winfrey and Cory Booker will once again hit the airwaves this weekend in Winfrey’s new interview program “Oprah’s Next Chapter,” an outside-the-studio talk show with celebrities and newsmakers.
Producers from the show said Oprah visited Newark to interview the mayor who “opens up about his political future and explains why he’s still a bachelor.” (Giambusso, The Star-Ledger)
Toll hike could be on the way as U.S. tries to pay for highway repair, expansion
Driving onto an Interstate highway? Crossing a bridge on the way into work? Taking a tunnel under a river or bay? Get ready to pay.
With Congress unwilling to contemplate an increase in the federal gas tax, motorists are likely to be paying ever more tolls as the government searches for ways to repair and expand the nation’s congested highways. (Associated Press)
How the homeless, mentally ill land in Atlantic City
With The Who’s “My Generation” playing on his earphones, dressed in crocs and plaid pajama pants, Keith Stell, 57, was happy to tell how he got to Atlantic City two months ago, a paranoid schizophrenic off his meds, a long rap sheet of drug and other arrests, just out of a Gloucester County jail.
“A cop car,” he said, sitting on a bench in the yard of the Atlantic City Rescue Mission with several other men who all attend the Atlantic Behavioral Health program. He said he was now on Seroquel. “They dropped me off. I didn’t have a place to go.” (Rosenberg, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Transit agency leaders assess post-recession projects in N.J.
Key transit agency leaders this morning reassured the business community that post-recession capital projects are improving efficiency and safety of New Jersey’s roads, trains, airports and seaports.
At the annual summit held by the N.J. Alliance for Action, executives of state and federal transit agencies sought – as one speaker phrased it – to assure the room full of engineers, builders, and other professionals that the economy-driving, shovels-in-the-ground projects exist. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
Energy taxes hit with double whammy
Energy tax revenue shortfall was the result of a double whammy between lowered natural gas prices and lower consumption, Office of Legislative Services Budget Officer David Rosen told legislators.
Both the lowered consumption and lowered prices were largely the result of a mild winter. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
From the Back Room
Greenwald not impressed with Christie pronouncements
Lou Greenwald is not impressed.
At least not with the governor’s rhetoric.
Gov. Christie tore into the budget chief of the Office of Legislative Services today over the accuracy of revenue projections, then said he remains fully committed to tax cuts – and by no means will Christie budge on the Assembly Democrats’ plan to assess a tax on millionaires. (Arco, PolitickerNJ)
Cory Booker was right the first time…it’s “nauseating!”
Cory Booker was right…the first time. Anyone who follows the political game knows that Cory Booker is embroiled in a national soap opera involving presidential politics.
Last Sunday on Meet the Press, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who last made national headlines when he rescued his neighbor from a burning building, compared President Barack Obama’s attacks on private equity to the attacks of the Republicans tying Jeremiah Wright to President Obama. (Adubato, Jr. for PolitickerNJ)
A beginners guide to how a lawyer becomes a judge (part 1)
In New Jersey, nominations of judges and Senate Judiciary hearings make news. What most people don’t know, however, is that the New Jersey judicial appointment process is more about a handshake than about a law. The state of New Jersey has given America the brightest, most progressive and fair-minded state judiciary because the nomination process follows time-honored customs, and not because of legal statutes written by lawyers. (Scarinci for PolitickerNJ)
Democrats bow to Christie’s plan to cut income taxes
Democrats had enough ammunition Wednesday to blast a crater-sized pothole in the “Jersey Comeback” narrative, Governor Christie’s boast of a state that is fast on the road to recovery.
Instead, they lay down and let Christie roll right over them.
They could have made the case that New Jersey just can’t afford a tax cut — their own veteran analyst said the administration could collect as much as $1.3 billion less than expected in the next 14 months. The state may not have enough money to pay for its services and programs for the poor, the elderly and the venerated middle class. (Stile, The Record)
The emerging Democratic divide
Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s off-message criticism of the Obama campaign’s attacks on Mitt Romney’s background at Bain Capital gave the campaign an untimely, unwanted headache this week. But more significantly, it exposed a tension that’s developing between the Democratic Party’s centrist wing and its more-outspoken liberal base—one that threatens to fester more openly if President Obama fails to win a second term. (Kraushaar, National Journal)
More vindication for Chris Christie in canceling the ARC boondoggle
There were a lot of things wrong with the Access to the Region’s Core tunnel project that Gov. Christie nixed.
Because of incompetence and infighting among the New York rail agencies (Which I explained in detail here), Grand Central and Penn Station remain unconnected even though they are a mere nine blocks apart.
The original purpose of ARC was to correct that. (Mulshine, The Star-Ledger)