Morning News Digest: September 19, 2012


Morning News Digest: September 19, 2012

By Missy Rebovich



O’Scanlon rides to Christie’s defense on S&P outlook downgrade

Assembly budget office Declan O’Scanlon today issued a scathing release taking both Democrats – and the statehouse press corps who quoted them – to task over comments made in the wake of an outlook downgrade by a Wall Street ratings agency.

Democrats rushed to attack Gov. Chris Christie after Standard and Poor dropped the state’s credit outlook from stable to negative. 

But O’Scanlon noted that not only did S&P affirm the state’s AA- credit rating, but so did Moody’s Investor Service and Fitch Ratings, the other major ratings agencies.  (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)



Christie heads to Hawkeye state on fundraising swing

Gov. Chris Christie will head to Iowa on Thursday for a pair of fundraisers before jetting to Washington D.C. Friday to raise money for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

While in Iowa, Christie will head to Sioux City to help raise money for U.S. Rep. Steve King, who is locked in a battle with former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack. King has a slight lead in recent polling, but took fire from Democrats recently when he told an Iowa reporter that he had never heard of pregnancy resulting from statutory rape or incest. 

“Well I just haven’t heard of that being a circumstance that’s been brought to me in any personal way and I’d be open to discussion about that subject matter,”  King told KMEG-TV.  (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)



‘Beat it, kid…’ those who survived self-inflicted word damage in campaigns, and those who didn’t

Engulfed in a feeding frenzy after Mother Jones showed a video of him at a fundraiser earlier this year writing off 47% of the electorate as governmentally assisted and therefore politically out of reach, Mitt Romney tried to weather the gaffe at a podium last night.

But the story continued to give ammo to his opponents, who objected to the GOP presidential nominee’s comments to donors characterizing President Barack Obama backers as people who can’t be convinced to “take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

State Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-20), Elizabeth, attacked.

“He is dismissing 50% of the American public,” said the veteran Democrat. “Those are disgusting comments that prove he doesn’t deserve to be anywhere near the White House.”  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



High court justices act like elected officials, says Christie

Fielding a question on the state’s public school funding formula, Gov. Chris Christie brought the discussion back to the New Jersey Supreme Court.

During a town hall here, the governor accused the state’s high court judges of acting like elected officials by having the final word on billions of dollars of state spending.  (Arco, State Street Wire)



Christie says Scutari won’t back tort reform

Gov. Chris Christie says the Democrat-controlled state Senate – namely the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee – has zero desire to take up tort reform in the state.

The governor called out Sen. Nicholas Scutari, (D-22), Tuesday, saying the trial attorney told the governor personally that he would block attempts to take up tort reform in the state.

“This senator doesn’t want it and if he doesn’t want it, he’s not going to put it through his committee,” Christie said during his town hall here.

“He said forget it,” he said. “Never happening, not going through my committee.”  (Arco, PolitickerNJ)



Christie says Romney must “cake the case” to American voters now

Governor Christie said GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney has 49 people to make his case to voters before they head to the polls.

“You don’t kick out an incumbent president unless the person running against them makes the case,” he said during an event in Elmwood Park Tuesday. “I’ve often said you don’t win the championship on points. You’ve got to knock the champ down onto the canvas. That’s the way it works, I think in politics, the same way it works most of the time in boxing. And so from my perspective it’s up to him. He’s got to decide, because in the end you’re voting for him you’re voting for the candidate.”

Christie was responding to a woman who said she wants too see Romney beat President Obama in November.  (Hayes, The Record)



Negative outlook on N.J. debt may be campaign plus for Democrats

New Jersey Democrats who cast doubt on Republican Governor Chris Christie’s economic comeback plans have been handed a weapon heading into next year’s elections.

Standard & Poor’s lowered the state’s credit outlook to negative from stable yesterday, citing budget imbalances, pension liabilities and debt burden. The general-obligation rating of AA-, fourth highest, may be cut “should state revenue projections turn out to be optimistic,” leading to more “short-term budgetary maneuvering,” the company said.

“This provides the Democrats with more ammunition to stall some of Chris Christie’s major proposals, particularly his tax cuts,” Patrick Murray, who teaches political science at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, said in an interview. “It gives the Democrats some cover to keep the governor from scoring political points as he heads into next year’s re- election battle.”   (Young, Bloomberg)



N.J.’s $31.7B budget again considered overly optimistic

Budget analysts and credit rating agencies continue to cast doubt on a “Jersey Comeback.”

On Tuesday, Standard & Poor’s became the third credit agency within days to warn that New Jersey’s $31.7 billion budget, which went into effect July 1, is based on overly optimistic revenue projections. It depends on expected revenue growth of nearly 8 percent, more than twice the rate of the previous year.

The Christie administration itself is presenting a muted economic forecast to investors, a far cry from the governor’s months of touting the state’s economic “comeback,” a slogan he recently abandoned.  (Farrell, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



School issues dominate Christie’s Elmwood Park town hall meeting

Calling it the “last bastion for liberalism,” Governor Christie called on taxpayers Tuesday to back his effort to change the state’s highest court to help school districts get a fair cut of state aid.

“Until you get engaged with me to put people on the Supreme Court who understand what their job is, which is not to make the laws, not to appropriate money — if they want to do that get out of the black robes, run for office and get elected,” he said getting applause from the crowd inside the Elmwood Park Recreational Center.

Education issues dominated the governor’s 91st town hall-style event, his first in the borough, as he pushed his latest theme, the “Middle-Class Reform Agenda. He told about 350 attendees that his top priority is getting Democrats to enact his income tax cut, something he has lobbied for despite a state budget analysts and Wall Street ratings agencies who have raised concerns with his aggressive revenue forecasts. Mayor Richard Mola said it was the first time during his 41 years in public office that he recalled a governor holding an event in Elmwood Park.  (Hayes, The Record)



Gov. Christie late with revenue for second straight month

For the second month in a row — as revenue collections become the center of the debate in Trenton — the Christie administration has ignored its own executive order and been tardy with monthly revenue reports.

In his first days in office and facing a fiscal disaster, Gov. Chris Christie issued an executive order requiring the Treasury Department to release monthly revenue reports on a specific time schedule.

“New Jersey has for too long engaged in a practice of disjointed financial reporting and inadequate fiscal transparency that has contributed to the failure to recognize the scope and severity of New Jersey’s financial condition,” the order reads.  (Renshaw, The Star-Ledger)



Menendez, Kyrillos agree to three debates in Senate race

With Sen. Bob Menendez leading his Republican opponent by 11 points in the race for the U.S. Senate, Menendez announced he and state Sen. Joe Kyrillos will face off in three debates next month.

The debates were announced a few hours after a new poll showed Menendez receiving support from 43 percent of likely voters, while 32 percent said they would vote for Kyrillos. But the poll also showed both candidates — and Kyrillos in particular — struggling with a lack of name recognition.

The first debate, set for Oct. 4, will be held at Montclair State University and broadcast on NJTV. It is sponsored by MSU and North Jersey Media Group, the parent company of The Record.  (Linhorst, The Record)



Oliver on vouchers: Christie needs to discuss compromise that protects school system

Speaker Sheila Oliver’s office responded quickly today to Gov. Christie’s claim that she is holding up a voucher bill for schools by referencing comments made in May.

“We welcome him to come to the table and discuss a compromise that does not further threaten our public education system,” she said then.  (Staff, State Street Wire)



Pilot program to lengthen school day slated for hearing

The Senate Education Committee is scheduled to take up a bill Monday that would lengthen the school day in some districts.

The bill, S2087, would set up a pilot program over three years to study the effects of a longer school day on academic performance.  (Staff, State Street Wire)



Hearing on Real ID licenses Friday

A state Superior Court judge will hear arguments Friday on whether New Jersey can implement nationally standardized drivers’ licenses.

The state Motor Vehicle Commission planned to roll out the new licenses in May but was stopped by an injunction issued by Mercer County Superior Court Judge Paul Innes after the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey sued.

The ACLU claims the MVC erred by revising proof-of-ID rules without a full public vetting and that the changes could affect civil rights by requiring that all documents, including birth certificates, be in English, and that the homeless will have difficulty proving citizenship under the proposed regulations.

The tougher rules would require drivers to show Social Security documents as proof of ID and would no longer allow use of certain primary documents, such as a recently expired passport.  (Jordan, Asbury Park Press)



North Jersey is fifth-costliest market to plant corporate headquarters

Northern New Jersey is the fifth-most-expensive place in the nation to operate a corporate headquarters, according to a study done by a Princeton-based consultant specializing in site selection.

It costs $43.4 million a year to run a headquarters in Newark/Northern New Jersey, Boyd Co. found in its 2012 study. This region of the state ranks behind No. 1 New York City; San Jose/Sunnyvale/Santa Clara, Calif.; San Francisco; and Nassau/Suffolk, N.Y.

The cost to operate a headquarters in New York City was pegged at $47.2 million by Boyd. For No. 2-ranked San Jose it was $46.6 million, with San Francisco at $46.2 million. The operating costs for a headquarters in Nassau/Suffolk were $44.3 million, according to Boyd’s data.  (Moss, The Record)



A little weight loss could save N.J. big in health care costs

New Jersey has one of the lowest adult obesity rates in the country but is on track by 2030 to see the highest increase — 34.5 percent — in obesity-related health care costs among states, according to a study released Tuesday.

But the study, by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, estimated that if New Jerseyans shed even a bit of weight — an average of 5 percent of each person’s body-mass index — the health care savings would top more than $470 million by decade’s end.

Losing weight could also help prevent tens of thousands of cases of Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, cancer and arthritis, according to the ninth annual “F as in Fat” report about obesity in America.

The report found that even though present-day New Jersey tips the scales lower than other states, obesity costs could rise faster in the future as the state grays.  (Diskin, The Record)



Report: Accountability lacking for NJ prosecutors

More accountability is needed for prosecutors whose courtroom errors lead to convictions being reversed on appeal, according to a report released Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union-New Jersey.

The report studied more than 500 criminal cases handled by New Jersey’s 21 county prosecutor’s offices that were heard by appeals courts between the beginning of 2005 and mid-2011. The cases dated back as far as 2001.

Appeals courts reversed convictions in 53 of the 570 cases due to prosecutorial error and found prosecutors had committed less-serious errors in more than 150 other cases.  (Porter, Associated Press)



Did the cost of subsidizing offshore wind just hit a downdraft?

The developer of the state’s first offshore wind farm is telling regulatory officials that the project’s impact on ratepayers will be significantly lower than a similarly scaled initiative in Rhode Island, which is likely to be the first operating wind farm off the East Coast.

In a letter to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities delivered late Monday, Fishermen’s Atlantic City Windfarm (FACW), LLC offered the first hint of what electric customers will be paying to achieve the state’s goal of a thriving offshore wind industry, although specific details are still being withheld.

The Atlantic City project, a small pilot 2.8 miles off the gambling resort, is facing steep hurdles to win approval from the agency. The BPU’s own consultant questioned the net economic benefits of the project, a key threshold established by a law designed to promote offshore wind. A consultant retained by the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel voiced similar concerns previously.  (Johnson, NJ Spotlight) 



Room at the top: More than half of NJ’s school supers are new to their jobs

Another year, another torrent of turnovers at the top of New Jersey school districts, as close to a third welcome new superintendents this fall, according to the latest statistics by the state school boards association.

More than 180 districts said goodbye to their superintendents in the past year, almost half of them retiring, according to the association. The impact was spread pretty much throughout the state: 12 superintendents retired in Monmouth County, 11 more in both Camden and Bergen

With nearly as many superintendents leaving statewide the year before, more than half of all districts have welcomed new bosses in the past two years. The school boards association said those are record highs, with some years seeing fewer than one-tenth of districts turn over.  (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)



Medicare cuts could have NJ healthcare hemorrhaging jobs

New Jersey could lose more than 14,000 jobs next year and nearly 22,000 jobs by 2021 if a 2 percent cut in Medicare spending mandated by a 2011 federal budget bill goes into effect.

That projection comes courtesy of a recent report produced by consulting firm Tripp Umbach for the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, and the American Nurses Association. It looked at baseline figures issued by the Congressional Budget Office that placed the total cuts to the Medicare program at $10.7 billion next year, climbing to $16.4 billion in 2021.

The cuts are mandated by the federal Budget Control Act, a compromise measure passed by Congress that ended a stalemate over increasing the federal debt limit. The bill created a set of budget caps to cut federal spending by $1 trillion over a 10-year period ending in 2021 and created a joint committee charged with cutting the federal budget deficit by an additional $1.2 trillion.   (Kalet, NJ Spotlight)



Bergen, Passaic counties get $9M in Green Acres funding for projects

A state trust approved about $9 million in Green Acres funding for projects in Bergen and Passaic counties Tuesday. The money is part of more than $66 million in funding slated for park development and land acquisition by local governments and nonprofit organizations.

Before municipalities and nonprofits can receive the money approved by the Garden State Preservation Trust, though, the state Legislature must include it in an appropriations bill that Governor Christie then signs into law.

Several projects dedicated to improving areas near the Passaic River will receive funding. Garfield won $187,800 in matching grants – the full amount the city requested – to help create a park along the river’s edge. A description of the park published by the trust said it “will provide areas to view the magnificent Dundee Dam and abundant river wildlife.”  (Linhorst, The Record)



N.Y. Fed president addresses Morris chamber

On the heels of a bold move by the Fed to keep interest rates low, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York spoke today to more than 200 people at the Morris County Chamber of Commerce’s annual “business growth forum” at the Park Savoy, in Florham Park.

Given the weakness in the national economy, William C. Dudley said as he headed into last week’s Federal Open Markets Committee, “I judged that if we did not ease monetary policy further, the pace of improvement would be unacceptably low.” Last week, the FOMC called for keeping interest rates low at least through mid-2015; Dudley supported the measure because “unemployment remains unacceptably high, with economic risks skewed to the downside.”  (Fitzgerald, NJBIZ)



Grant supports training to counsel NJ’s elderly and disabled

Support counselors at local resource centers who help older and disabled New Jersey residents find community-based services will be getting a financial boost from the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

New Jersey’s Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs) will receive about $118,300 at the end of September, part of $12.5 million awarded by HHS across the country.

The ADRC initiative is a nationwide effort to empower people to make informed decisions about their long-term services and support and help people more easily access services.   (Vecchione, NJ Spotlight)



Newark power plant secures environmental approval

Hess Corp.’s proposed 655-megawatt natural gas-fired power plant is moving closer to its groundbreaking in Newark’s Ironbound, as the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has issued it an air pollution control operating permit.

But while the continued decline in natural gas prices has increased demand for the energy source and prompted existing plant operators in the state to change up their fuel mix, Frank Felder, director of the Center for Energy, Economic and Environmental Policy at the Rutgers University Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, said developers aren’t likely to follow Hess in pursuing power plant construction projects.  (Eder, NJBIZ)



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Morning News Digest: September 19, 2012