Morning News Digest: August 15, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Kyrillos campaign tries to pass debate invitation to Menendez
The campaign of Sen. Joe Kyrillos (R-13) chafed under a reaction today by U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) to a campaign staffer’s attempt at passing a debate invite to the Democratic incumbent.
“It’s no surprise that Senator Menendez refused to accept our invitation to debate,” said Kyrillos Campaign Manager Chapin Fay. “Menendez doesn’t have a plan to create jobs, but he does have a record. A record of skyrocketing unemployment, high taxes, exploding debt, and reckless government spending. New Jerseyans deserve to hear from the candidates, one of whom will represent them in Washington — apparently Bob Menendez disagrees.” (Pizaro, PolitickerNJ)
Lautenberg denounces Christie as one of the ‘trickle down trio’
Christie nemesis U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) panned Mitt Romney’s selection of the Republican governor from New Jersey to serve as convention keynoter – but said it fits, given that party’s rightward turn with VP choice Paul Ryan.
“It makes perfect sense for Romney and Ryan to call on Chris Christie to keynote their convention: he vetoed a tax on millionaires, cut funding for education and has stood with corporate interests over the middle class as governor,” said Lautenberg. “Romney, Ryan and Christie are the trickle-down trio.”
A week ago, Christie brushed off a Lautenberg attack when he declared the senator “a waste of my time.” (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Amodeo: ‘Absolutely, I plan to run agaain’
Assemblyman John Amodeo (R-2) will run for re-election next year, he told PolitickerNJ.com.
He doesn’t intend to challenge state Sen. Jim Whelan (D-2). Moreover, he denied rumors that he plans to depart the assembly to take a job at the South Jersey Economic Development Authority.
Not true, said the assemblyman.
“I’m proud of the way I’ve served and, absolutely, I plan to run again,” said the operating engineer by trade. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Guadagno will skip Tampa convention party
Amid the hoopla around Gov. Chris Christie, it’s easy to lose track of New Jersey’s other jockeying politicians and where they will be two weeks from now when the lights go up on New Jersey’s governor.
While Christie commands the stage in Tampa, and state Sen. Joe Kyrillos (R-13) and other party leaders compose the Jersey GOP entourage, rubber chicken circuit veteran Lieutenant Govenor Kim Guadagno will be here. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Bills involving student athletes, veterans, others before pensions/benefits board
Several bills – involving veterans, student athletes and widows and widowers seeking to remarry – will be before the Division of Pension and Benefits on Friday.
The division issues recommendations to the Legislature on pending bills. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
Little candor from Gov. Christie before keynote
It didn’t take long for the watch-it, buster, I’m-a-bodacious-truth-teller verbiage to start flowing.
Mitt Romney publicly tapped Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey as the keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention, and within hours, Mr. Christie promised to deliver “very direct and hard truths” to the American people.
“Fixing these problems is not going to be easy for any of them,” he warned USA Today.
If the governor is in a mood for genuine candor about the economy, he could make one hell of a speech. His once prosperous state has lately become a national laggard.
Last year, New Jersey ranked 47th in economic growth, and as The Record newspaper noted, its economy shrank by 0.5 percent, even as the economies of 43 other states grew. State employment figures also do not offer much comfort. (Powell, The New York Times)
Keynote address gives Christie his biggest stage
Eight years ago, an obscure Illinois state senator with a foreign-sounding name gave a keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention that drew an audience of 9.1 million, mostly on PBS, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. The major networks — ABC, CBS, and NBC — passed up the speech, although some of their Chicago affiliates ran it live, much to the chagrin of Republican Alan Keyes who was then running against the relatively unknown Barack Obama for a U.S. Senate seat in Illinois.
The speech drew a “tepid” Nielsen rating — less than half the audience for a typical summer prime time program, Variety noted — but the laudatory coverage it engendered made Obama a national figure, catapulting him to a Senate victory that year and to the White House just four years later. (Magyar, NJ Spotlight)
Menendez, Lautenberg vow to fight Obama’s plan to slash Superfund program
New Jersey’s two Democratic senators vowed Tuesday they would fight President Obama to restore funding to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help ensure that the cleanup of the Garfield Superfund site is not disrupted.
Obama’s plan to slash $37 million from the Superfund program would halt all long-term cleanup projects at new taxpayer-funded toxic sites like Garfield, EPA officials have said.
That means plans to treat chromium-contaminated groundwater that has spread beneath a neighborhood of 3,700 residents and has seeped into basements may be pushed back by years.
Sen. Robert Menendez, who is running for reelection in November, called the proposal a “poor budget choice” on Tuesday. (Fallon, The Record)
N.J. Sierra Club endorses Sen. Robert Menendez for re-election
The New Jersey Sierra Club this morning endorsed Democratic U.S. Robert Menendez for re-election, saying he has been “at the forefront on issues impacting our environment.”
“He has been a dedicated national environmental leader and champion through his career. He not only votes the right way, but he fights to protect the environment here in New Jersey and across the nation,” said Jeff Tittel, the organization’s director. ” We believe Senator Menendez needs to be returned to the Senate to continue his great work and to fight for us here in New Jersey.”
Menendez, who has served in the Senate since 2006, faces state Sen. Joseph Kyrillos (R-Monmouth) in November. Both men have spent the summer trumpeting and gathering endorsements, with many of Menendez’s coming from organized labor and Kyrillos’s from business groups. (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)
Plastic vs. paper: NJ Legislature readies to tackle battle of the bags
When you go into a supermarket, you are usually given a choice: Paper or plastic bags to cart your groceries home, unless you are carrying in your own reusable grocery bag.
In some states, the choice you make could cost you a few pennies more, including in New Jersey if bills pending in the Legislature are enacted into law. What decision you make, however, is subject to a lot of debate as whether which one is better for the environment.
In what may be shaping up as a big battle in the fall legislative session, environmental groups and clean ocean advocates are pushing lawmakers to either ban single-use plastic bags or impose a fee on consumers who choose to opt for that choice. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
New Jersey fines halfway houses $45,000 over escapes
The Christie administration said on Tuesday that it had issued $45,000 in fines against New Jersey halfway houses from which nine inmates escaped in recent months, the harshest penalties ever brought against the troubled network of private operators.
The halfway houses were fined for failing to quickly report escapees to state officials and for recording inmates who had escaped as present. In other cases, supervisors failed to keep track of inmates who had fled from work-release programs or slipped away before being sent back to prison, corrections officials said.
The inmates escaped from six different halfway houses, including two run by Community Education Centers, a company that dominates the state’s halfway house system and has drawn scrutiny because of its close ties to Gov. Chris Christie. (Dolnick, The New York Times)
NJ Assemblyman offers unique help for Jersey’s jobless
Tomorrow, the state will release the unemployment figures for July. New Jersey’s jobless rate has outpaced the national average for months and analysts expect that to be the case for last month as well.
Many of the Garden State’s long-time unemployed are also starting or about lose their extended unemployment insurance benefits. Today, Assemblyman Anthony Bucco will unveil a unique new tool to help those seeking work.
Department of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Hal Wirths will join Bucco at his district office in Randolph to introduce a job search kiosk that is linked into the state’s ‘Jobs4Jersey’ outreach program. The online program is a one-stop career center that provides valuable tools, tips and information for job seekers to help them obtain employment by matching their skills with positions best suited for them. (McArdle, New Jersey 101.5)
$29M Grow N.J. incentive tops list of projects on EDA board’s agenda
Two companies are slated to receive tax incentives from the state Economic Development Authority’s Grow New Jersey Program if they agree to stay in New Jersey.
Imperial Bag & Paper Co. would be awarded $29.1 million in Grow New Jersey tax credits under an incentive pending approval by the EDA board, which meets this morning. Though the company is located in Bayonne, the EDA agenda indicated it would locate to Jersey City following approval for the incentive.
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, which has an outpatient center in the Basking Ridge section of Bernards, would receive a $7.9 million incentive from Grow New Jersey if it locates in Middletown, according to the agenda. (Eder, NJBIZ)
Incentives awarded for Bergen jobs
Two companies received tax-credit incentives from the state Economic Development Authority Tuesday, as future rewards for locating or expanding their headquarters in Bergen County.
Continuing a trend for eager companies to seek not one but a series of state tax breaks, the larger recipient is Ascena Retail, the operators of Dress Barn and other clothing brands, which has now scored two breaks with EDA so far this year.
Only months after getting state approval in April for $32.4 million Grow New Jersey credit to move its main operations to Mahwah from Suffern on the New York border, Ascena recently acquired the Bensalem-Pa.-based chain of brands Charming Shoppes, which includes plus-size label Lane Bryant. (Fletcher, The Record)
Washington Township councilman sues Assemblyman Robert Schroeder over $330,000 loan
Joseph D’Urso and Robert Schroeder have been friends for the better part of 20 years. Steeped in Washington Township politics, D’Urso joined the town’s council after Schroeder left to become a state assemblyman.
Schroeder donated generously to D’Urso’s political campaign. And when Schroeder needed financial help, D’Urso and his wife, Linda, lent him about $3 million over the past four years.
But now, that friendship is gone — a casualty of a cascading series of complaints from investors and associates that Schroeder hasn’t paid back his debts. (Hayes, Harris and Markos, The Record)
Exclusive Report: Top federal pensions: over $100,000
More than 21,000 retired federal workers receive lifetime government pensions of $100,000 or more per year, an Asbury Park Press/USA Today analysis finds.
Of these, nearly 2,000 have federal pensions that pay $125,000 or more annually, and 151 take home $150,000 or more. Six federal retirees get pensions exceeding $200,000 a year.
Some 1.2 percent of federal retirees collect six-figure pensions. By comparison, 0.1 percent of military retirees collect this much. The New York State and Local Retirement System pays 0.2 percent of its retirees pensions of $100,000 or more. The New Jersey retirement system pays 0.4 percent of retirees that much. Comparable private figures aren’t available. (D’Ambrosio and Cauchon, Asbury Park Press)
Horizon, Optimus join forces on accountable-care organization
Physician-run accountable-care organization Optimus Healthcare Partners LLC has launched a new ACO with Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey in a bid to reduce medical costs and improve care for more than 40,000 Horizon members.
“We are looking for ACO partners that share our philosophy with creating a patient-centered medical home dominated marketplace, and a system like Optimus has a whole portfolio of specialists and primary-care doctors working towards that goal,” Horizon ACO director Joe O’Hara said. “Our care management services are powerful, but they’re not as powerful as a physician working directly with a patient.” (Eder, NJBIZ)
Drivers will get discount for renewing registration online
State Motor Vehicle Commission officials are giving drivers a discount on the transaction fee if they renew their vehicle registration online.
The rollback of the $2 fee to $1.50 for processing online vehicle registration renewals and personalized and specialized license plate orders, and 75 cents instead of $1 to order a driver’s license abstract, came after a new agreement was negotiated between the state and vendor NICUSA Inc.
The company will process credit card payments for online transactions, such as vehicle registration renewals, for 25 percent less per transaction than the state’s previous vendor. (Higgs, Asbury Park Press)
A stroke of fate paired Norcross, Buckelew
When Joseph Buckelew found himself introduced to George E. Norcross III on a golf course, there was plenty not to like.
The Ocean County Republican read the papers, after all. He knew Norcross’s reputation as an iron-willed political boss in South Jersey.
Eighteen holes later, though, Buckelew — who’s now chairman of Conner, Strong & Buckelew — found something he liked: he could beat Norcross on the links. Handily.
“I won a lot of money, so it was good,” Buckelew said. (Waters, NJBIZ)
N.J. trooper diversity called better
New Jersey’s top law enforcement officers said Tuesday that efforts to bring in a more diverse new class of state troopers were going well.
Applicants on Tuesday took the physical qualification test at the training academy in Sea Girt, a major step toward joining the force.
More than 12,000 men and women applied in May when state police started accepting new applications for the first time in more than two years. The plan is to bring in a total of 250 new troopers next year in two academy classes.
Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa and State Police Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes said that 9,600 applicants met all the initial qualifications and that 8,500 scheduled themselves to take the physical test, which includes push-ups, sit-ups, and running. (Associated Press)
For Gateway, National Park Service forming a vision for the future
The National Park Service has visions of Gateway National Recreation Area, which includes Sandy Hook, but needs more public help to bring the colorful images into focus.
In beachside information sessions this month, park employees have been soliciting opinions about the future of Sandy Hook, and Gateway sites across Raritan Bay in Staten Island and Jamaica Bay.
After two years of such chats, as well as more formal planning, the service is closing in on a choice among competing alternatives. That is expected this fall, with public hearings on the preferred plan to follow next year. (Tyrrell, NJ Spotlight)
Mayor asks N.J. to kick in more for airport grant program
At least one mayor is hoping the state will pick up more of the cost in an airport matching grant program.
Mayor Steve DiDonato, whose town of Hammonton has a publicly owned airport, has petitioned the Department of Transportation to kick in more money following a move by the federal government to decrease its share. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
What’s Chris Christie’s next political move?
The announcement that Chris Christie will be the keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention later this month in Tampa, Florida is the latest step in a meteoric political rise for the New Jersey governor and is sure to stoke speculation about his own future on the national stage.
“I learned a long time ago to take each cycle one at a time,” said Bill Palatucci, a close adviser to Christie and a Republican National Committeeman from New Jersey. “This is a great honor for the Governor and something that all New Jerseyans can take great pride in. For what the future holds, no one knows.”
No one may know but that won’t stop the speculation about where Christie, who remains the biggest — and most recognizable — star in the Republican party, will run next. Heck, even Christie himself has entertained the possibility of his next move, telling the Associated Press that he would “certainly think about it” if the GOP presidential nomination is open in four years time. (Cillizza, The Washington Post)
Your RNC keynote speaker: Chris Christie’s best moments
What will Chris Christie say in his Republican National Committee convention keynote speech?
We don’t know (sorry). But the New Jersey governor is one of the most prolific politicians on YouTube. So we can look at some of his greatest rhetorical moments for some hints.
Most of Christie’s greatest hits (which his office often records and promotes) had to do with his state’s long fight against teachers’ unions — a topic that will likely come up at the RNC.
In one of Christie’s most famous “YouTube moments,” he told a teacher at a town hall asking about layoffs and cuts to simmer down.
“I stood here and very respectfully listened to you; if what you want to do is put on a show and giggle every time I talk, well then I have no interest in answering your question,” he said to applause. (Weiner, The Washington Post)
Future not guaranteed to convention speakers
In politics, nothing says you’re the future more than getting a coveted prime time speaking slot at a national convention. Except when it doesn’t. Keep that in mind as the two parties fill those slots for the upcoming conventions in Tampa and Charlotte. It can get pretty confusing.
Only four years ago, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was the unquestioned future of the Republican Party, the star of the convention in St. Paul and guaranteed to be a big deal at the convention in 2012. But four years later, she’s not governor, not a nominee and not going to be speaking in Tampa. Instead, viewers will be watching the current “future stars,” a constellation that includes officials totally unknown in 2008 — Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Mary Fallin, Nikki Haley, Rick Scott, and Susana Martinez. (Condon, National Journal)