Morning News Digest: August 17, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Treasury points to July revenues as positive sign
After releasing information Wednesday about the big-three tax revenues – income, sales and corporate taxes – the Treasury Department followed up today by issuing more details about collections in the early part of fiscal year 2013.
The administration made public further numbers after dealing with criticism from Democrats about the pace of publicizing the collections figures.
Collections in July are allocated between the just-concluded fiscal year 2012 and the just-begun fiscal year 2013, Treasury reported. (Staff, State Street Wire)
Buono releases OLS letter showing FY12 shortfall of $540M
State revenue collections are $540 million below the administration’s targets for the fiscal year that ended June 30, according to an Office of Legislative Services letter to a state senator.
David Rosen, the legislative budget and finance office for the nonpartisan office, told Sen. Barbara Buono, (D-18), Metuchen, that there’s a $542 million revenue shortfall in Gov. Chris Christie’s Fiscal Year 2012 budget.
“Total collections according to the State’s Comprehensive Financial System are about $24.156 billion compared to a target of $24.698 billion in the Treasurer’s May 23, 2012 testimony to the Legislative Budget Committees,” Rosen wrote in a letter to Buono, which the senator released Thursday afternoon. (Arco, PolitickerNJ)
Sacco versus Stack heads toward 2013 showdown
When the U.S. and the Soviet Union wanted to test out each other’s hardware, they found a place where their own civilians wouldn’t likely wake up with a megaton bomb on their front porch.
That was what Germany and Russia did too, in the Spanish Civil War. They used the Castilian countryside as a staging area for their own coming roles in a world war.
So it shouldn’t have come to anyone’s surprise that when Hudson County’s two coldest neighboring warriors wanted to participate in more exhilarating running board and Tommy gun tactics, they relocated to the hillsides of Passaic County. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
N.J. jobless rate at 9.8%, its highest level in 35 years
The highest unemployment rate in New Jersey in 35 years and the loss of 12,000 jobs in July provided jarring evidence Thursday that the state’s economic recovery is badly trailing the nation’s.
The state Labor Department said the jobless rate climbed from 9.6 percent to 9.8 percent in July, higher, for the first time, than when Governor Christie took office in January 2010 and continuing well above the 8.3 percent national rate. And the loss of 12,000 jobs last month stood in stark contrast with the nation’s 163,000-job gain in July.
The bad news, and another report released Thursday showing state revenue for the first month of the new fiscal year coming in below projections, comes less than two weeks before Christie takes the national stage as keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention, where he is expected to frame the economy as the key issue. (Fletcher and Reitmeyer, The Record)
Greenstein to Kyrillos: ‘Put your money where your mouth is’
Seizing on a report that state Sen. Joe Kyrillos (R-13) doesn’t exclude tax hikes on the wealthy, state Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-14) urged Kyrillos to co-sponsor the “Millionaire’s Tax.”
Kyrillos previously voted against the legislation sponsored by Greenstein and later vetoed by Governor Chris Christie.
“If Senator Kyrillos has truly seen the light and now understands that the wealthy must carry their fair share of the tax burden, then I want to be the first to say, ‘Put your legislative action where your mouth is,’” said Greenstein. “For too long, New Jersey’s middle class has been footing the bill for government programs, services and paying down our deficit, while the wealthiest among us received tax breaks. Until now, Joe Kyrillos has accepted this status quo, but now he agrees that is not acceptable to New Jersey’s middle class.” (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Kyrillos’ tax return stance draws little fire
A Tea Party activist and a Republican congressional candidate in Central New Jersey criticized the GOP Senate candidate after he said he would be open to “smart” tax increases.
But most other Republicans seeking congressional seats — as well as Governor Christie — stayed quiet about Joseph Kyrillos’ attempt to distance himself from presumptive GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan by stressing his opposition to a pledge never to raise taxes.
Many Republicans voice support for simplifying the tax code while lowering rates, but Kyrillos went further and has refused to sign the pledge from Americans for Tax Reform to oppose anything that increases the net tax burden on individuals or corporations. Most Republicans in Congress, and the party’s entire New Jersey delegation, have signed that pledge. (Jackson, The Record)
Christie releases full report on July revenue
A day after only releasing partial news on state tax collections, Governor Christie put out a full revenue report for July 2012 that shows a mixed bag for the state economy.
According to data released by the state Department of Treasury late Thursday, New Jersey made gains in July 2012 compared to July 2011 in both the gross income and corporate business taxes.
In all, gross cash collections for the state’s major revenue sources in July 2012 – the first month of the new budget year — were up 2.5 percent compared to July 2011.
But the revenue report also showed the state needed to use some of those July 2012 tax collections to close out the prior fiscal year in balance. (Reitmeyer, The Record)
N.J. Dems say new photo ID laws could suppress votes
Some progressive Democrats want to make sure the state doesn’t follow the lead of six other states and enact strict new voter ID laws they say could lead to suppression at the polls.
Democratic Assemblyman John McKeon, of Essex County, said Thursday the laws, requiring voters to present photo identification, are thinly veiled attempts to repress votes primarily from poor, Democratic constituencies. Such laws could hurt President Barack Obama’s re-election bid because they strike at his support base.
“Twenty-one million Americans don’t have photo IDs, and two-thirds of that 21 million come from core Democratic constituencies,” McKeon said. “This shouldn’t be a partisan issue … we should be finding ways to get more people to exercise this precious right to vote, not suppressing it.” (Associated Press)
Lesniak urging casinos and tracks to go ahead with sports betting
State Sen. Raymond J. Lesniak (D-Union) has urged the state’s casinos and racetracks to take sports bets despite a lawsuit from the sports leagues seeking to bar the practice.
According to Lesniak, the businesses are reluctant to take sports bets in the face of the lawsuit, based on what he called bad legal advice. Lesniak, a law partner in Weiner Lesniak, of Parsippany, said the legal reasoning displayed by attorneys advising the businesses against accepting sports bets would earn a “D-minus” grade in a first-year law class.
Lesniak said the sports leagues would be unsuccessful in getting an injunction to stop the betting while a U.S. District Court judge hears the case. This would allow the casinos and racetracks to reap six months of profits before a court ruling, Lesniak said. The leagues would have to prove that they would suffer “irreparable harm” if sports betting was allowed to advance. (Kitchenman and Burd, NJBIZ)
N.J. politician pushes for law requiring pets buckle up on car rides
This one could have some Jersey canines howling with discontent.
If a lawmaker has her way, those carefree rides in cars with their heads out the window will be long gone. Instead, dogs — and cats — will have to be buckled up for safety, just like humans.
The measure is the brainchild of Assemblywoman Grace Spencer (D-Essex) who said she got the idea from a fourth-grade class at a Newark charter school and started pushing it after her veterinarian mentioned a small pooch who had broken a leg after its owner made a sudden stop.
If enacted, New Jersey would have the nation’s toughest seat belt law for pets. (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)
Report: Just over a quarter of N.J. lawmakers are women
Two years after only the second woman was elected to a statewide executive position in New Jersey, women still represent slightly more than a quarter of New Jersey’s lawmakers, according to a report released today by Rutgers University.
The Center for American Women and Politics shows women gained one seat in the state Legislature from last year, bringing their total to 35 among the 120 lawmakers. The highest level women ever gained was 36 seats, in 2009. The lowest was in 1981 when there were a total of eight women in the Senate and Assembly.
The study shows women first comprised 20 percent of the state Legislature in 2007, reaching a high of 30 percent in 2009 before settling at 29.2 percent this year. (Spoto, The Star-Ledger)
Report: State has potential for 600 clean energy jobs, seventh in nation
New Jersey has risen to seventh in the nation among clean energy job-creating states, according to a quarterly report by a clean energy business advocacy group.
Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), a national group of business leaders that works with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said New Jersey has a total of 600 in-operation or potential jobs for clean energy projects in the state, lifting New Jersey 11 spots from its first-quarter ranking.
The report, released Thursday, tallied only jobs created for clean energy projects announced publicly in the second quarter by governments or businesses. It then breaks down the jobs by those in operation and those to be created in the Garden State. (Diduch, The Record)
Deal reached to preserve 835 acres of N.J. Highlands
A deal has been struck to preserve 835 acres of the North Jersey Highlands with a conservation group, federal, state, county and local governments paying the $4.6 million price.
New Jersey Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin says the purchase of the Jefferson Township tract will expand the Rockaway River Wildlife Management Area and provide land for parks to be run by Jefferson Township.
He also heralds it an example of Gov. Chris Christie’s commitment to the region in the northern part of the state. (Associated Press)
N.J. investigating 27 possible security breaches in administration of standardized tests
At a time when test scores are poised to play a more significant role in evaluating teachers, New Jersey education officials are reviewing reports of 27 security breaches from the administration of state tests this spring.
While that number involves a small share of the roughly 850,000 standardized tests that New Jersey public school students take each year, testing experts say the state Department of Education is right to take the breaches seriously.
John Fremer, president of Caveon Consulting Services, which advises states on preventing cheating, said it would be impossible to have no irregularities, and a couple of dozen incidents is a small number for an entire state. Even so, he said, there is cause for concern. (Brody, The Record)
EPA move could further drag out American Dream environmental review
Environmental permitting for the American Dream Meadowlands complex could face a new delay as federal regulators take another look at the project.
The length of the delay was not immediately clear, but a public comment process that was supposed to end last month was effectively extended by the Environmental Protection Agency, an official with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said today. The public comment period was expected to clear the way for permitting by the Army Corps, but the EPA requested to have until Aug. 20 for an additional review. (Burd, NJBIZ)
NJ Transit gets $8.5 million grant
The state’s mass transit agency has received a $8.5 million federal grant to upgrade its bus fleet, adding onboard cameras, automatic bus stop announcements and location reporting with other improvements.
The funding, announced Thursday by Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-Paterson, would be used to install Smart Bus technology on NJ Transit buses operating across the state. Smart bus technology includes passenger counting and vehicle condition monitoring programs, as well as the purchase and installation of 900 onboard cameras and real-time location reporting programs. (Staff, The Record)
Awaiting Senate vote: Bill dealing with guide dogs, investment tax credits, more
The Senate will deal with a variety of bills on Monday during a rare mid-August voting session.
From tax credits for “angel” investors to guide dogs on N.J. Transit vehicles, there are a diverse group of bills awaiting votes. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
Prieto: Revenue reporting transparency bill awaits governor’s action
The Assembly Budget Committee chairman raised concerns today over the fact complete revenue information has not been issued by the administration.
Assemblyman Vincent Prieto, (D-32), Secaucus, seconded comments made earlier by Democratic Sen. Barbara Buono. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
DEP’s waiver rule: 6 applications in early going
It’s been two weeks since the waiver rule went into effect at the state Department of Environmental Protection, and thus far, it has received only six applications.
Of those, five were deemed “serious” enough that they would continue to move through the review process. Of those five, two of the waiver applications were deemed completed and would be considered for further review. Two others were still being processed. And one was rejected for insufficient information. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
From the Back Room
Menendez to return five years’ worth of tax returns
Hours after state Sen. Joe Kyrillos said he would release tax returns from the last three years, U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) announced he plans to release his tax returns filed for the last five years.
“Senator Menendez will make his personal income tax returns available for review by members of the media at his campaign headquarters in the spirit of full transparency,” said Mike Soliman, Menendez For Senate Campaign Manager. “The Senator believes in disclosing to the press his personal financial details including his annual income, his sources of income, and his paying a percentage of his income to taxes that is on par with what New Jersey’s middle class families have paid in each of the past five years. This is a small step the Senator wants to make toward maintaining the trust of New Jersey voters.” (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Report: Donovan sues freeholder board
The Bergen Record reports that Republican Bergen Executive Kathleen Donovan today filed a lawsuit against the majority GOP freeholder board.
Donovan wants to block both a referendum on merging the Bergen County Police with the county Sheriff’s Office and the second reading of an ordinance eliminating the department, the Record says. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Are more changes in store for the New Jersey Judiciary?
If New Jersey voters approve pension cuts for New Jersey judges this November, many members of the judiciary may consider employment elsewhere. To make it more difficult for them to leave, Judges now have new, strict rules that will limit their employment opportunities. (Scarinci for PolitickerNJ)
For one night, it’s all about Christie
Chris Christie is ready for his close-up now. After endless speculation, the governor has been asked to deliver the keynote address at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. As Joe Biden would say, “It’s a big $#!*-ing deal.”
The governor is expected to tout the “Jersey Comeback,” a phrase I wish he would abandon, not so much because the state |isn’t improving – that is a subjective opinion – but rather because it is such a cliché coming from someone capable of far better jingoism. It’s as if Teddy Roosevelt had settled on “The Happy Meal” instead of “The Square Deal.” (Doblin, The Record)
Christie ready for big stage
Gov. Chris Christie wasn’t chosen to run on the Republicans’ ticket for vice president but he may have grabbed the brass ring with his selection to deliver the keynote speech at the GOP’s convention in Tampa.
The keynote is not about the giver, it’s about rallying the troops and getting voters excited about the upcoming campaign, about drawing contrasts between your team and theirs. History has shown it has done well for many of the people making it, too. (Ingle, Asbury Park Press)