Weekly Roundup: Week of Aug. 13

TRENTON – So much for the Jersey Comeback.

After experiencing what seemed to be gradual growth for many months, the Garden State suffered a proverbial black eye this week, as the Labor Department released the devastating news that the state lost a whopping 12,000 jobs last month. Both the public and private sectors were affected as the unemployment rate hit 9.8 percent, a 35-year high.

Officials from the Gov. Chris Christie’s administration and the Treasury Department cautioned to not make too much out of a single month’s jobs report, saying the economy remains sluggish.

But Democratic lawmakers said it was difficult to find any good news from the report. As Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-3) of West Deptford said, “There is no way to interpret this other than bad. I don’t want to hear any spin. I don’t want to hear anything remotely close to painting this as good news. I don’t want a press conference touting these numbers as if it’s a ‘mission accomplished’ moment.”

Water quality

The joint Assembly and Senate Environmental committees took testimony in the beautiful and scenic town of Lavallette, overlooking Barnegat Bay, which has seen excessive amounts of jellyfish and algae blooms, among other problems. Many of them stem from overdevelopment and storm water runoff, according to a keynote witness from Rutgers University, Michael Kennish, of the Institute of Marine and Coastal Science.

Sen. Bob Smith, (D-17), of Piscataway, called for upgrades to the storm water runoff system, which he warned would not be cheap.

“There’s no free lunch,” he said.

Administration officials have cited the governor’s 10-point plan for the bay as a symbol of its commitment to improving the bay’s water quality.

Educational initiative

As part of the administration’s education reform plan, the state Education Department went forward with having Regional Achievement Centers set up to help some of the state’s lowest performing districts.

Grow NJ

The incentives just keep on coming, at least from the Economic Development Authority. The EDA approved more than $30 million worth of Grow NJ Grants this past week.

National spotlight

Gov. Chris Christie, who was virtually silent this week as he was on vacation with his family, still has relevance on the national political scene after being snubbed by the Romney campaign for the vice presidential candidate spot.

He was selected as the Keynote Speaker for the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.

Buono on the attack

Sen. Barbara Buono took the administration to task, saying it disregarded one of its own executive orders, missing a monthly deadline for public release of revenue collections and other budgetary data.

Timed with the bad news on the employment front, it gave the Democrats ammunition against Christie just when he had been awarded a national GOP spotlight at the convention.

 

Weekly Roundup: Week of Aug. 13