Morning News Digest: September 20, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
State misses revenue projections by 4.9 percent
The state missed its revenue projections for the first two months of the fiscal year by nearly $100 million, according to figures released today by the state Treasurer.
Sales tax receipts represented the bulk of the revenue miss, coming in $45 million under projections, followed closely by gross income tax, which missed the mark by $31.5 million. Corporation business taxes edged out projections by $3 million.
In all the budget called for collections of $2.03 billion in the first two months of the year, while actual collections came in at $1.93 billion. Revenue collections beat the first two months of last fiscal year by less than 1 percent, a figure that may not bode well for the governor’s budget, which relies on revenue growth of 7 percent. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Can’t commit yet to an alimony revision bill, Christie says
Gov. Chris Christie said in response to a question at today’s town hall that he could not commit yet to signing a bill regarding alimony revisions because the proposal still is working its way through the Legislature.
“I don’t want to commit to signing it because I don’t know what the Senate will do to it,” Christie said, but added that if the bill stays the same he would lean toward signing it. (Arco, State Street Wire)
Sarlo calls for budget cuts in light of most recent revenue figures
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Sen. Paul Sarlo said today any talk of a tax cut by the governor is heavily premature given the latest round of revenue figures which show the state missing projections by almost 5 percent.
Sarlo and his fellow legislative Democrats put the brakes on a proposed tax cut pushed by Gov. Chris Christie, telling the governor they would wait until the end of the calendar year to gauge state revenues before deciding if the state could afford the cut.
“The only cuts we can be talking about right now are budget cuts,” Sarlo said. “Clearly the governor will have to come back to us with a proposal to provide significant cuts to his budget before every credit agency begins to downgrade our ratings.” (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Sacco: Utilities must be held accountable if responsible for road project delays
Sen. Nicholas J. Sacco, who serves as chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, will introduce a bill Thursday that will require public utility companies and the state Transportation Department to work together to develop a plan to relocate utility equipment and facilities to make way for road construction projects. (Staff, State Street Wire)
Women Democratic Party leaders rally around Diaz in the face of Devine attacks
Women Demcratic leaders this afternoon staged a counter offensive on behalf of Mayor Wilda Diaz, eviscerating the campaign consultant of a Diaz opponent in an increasingly acrimonious contest.
“I’ve watched her work this city from a big deficit to a smaller deficit,” said Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37). “I am here to warmly embrace her as she runs for a well-deserved second term. ..To stand up to the ‘you can’t run for office, little girl, go home’” mentality.
Other Diaz backers in attendance included Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-34), state Sen. Nellie Pou (D-35), Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-20), Assemblywoman Connie Wagner (D-38), and Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Salado blasts Devine over email sent to Diaz
Back on Smith Street, west of the green where political operative Jim Devine tried to confront Mayor Wilda Diaz, mayoral candidate Frank Salado repudiated the operative’s actions.
“In the strongest possible terms,” said Salado, one of a glut of challengers trying to break out of the pack and define himself/herself against the incumbent.
“That is an inappropriate and offensive way to address the mayor, and I would never address a woman – or anyone – in such a manner,” Salado told PolitickerNJ.com shortly after Diaz convened her press conference alongside women Democratic Party leaders. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Christie pushes for ethics reforms at South Amboy event
Governor Christie held his 94th town hall-style event this morning, speaking to almost 400 people in the South Amboy YMCA.
Christie stuck to familiar themes at the event, calling for ethics reforms and railing against Democrats who, in his view, care more about defeating him in the next election than in governing the state.
Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, D-Essex, drew particular ire from the governor. Christie identified several measures on which, he said, he and Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, agree. All that is stopping them from becoming law is Oliver and the Assembly, he said. (Linhorst, The Record)
Census figures show N.J is hurting: incomes are down, public assistance is up
More families received food stamps, fewer children were in private school and incomes dropped in New Jersey in 2011, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Wednesday — all signs pointing to a continued erosion of prosperity in one of the nation’s wealthiest states.
While many of the statistics changed only slightly, together they paint a picture of a state economy that was still lagging last year, well after the recession officially ended in 2009.
New Jersey is still better off than most of the nation, with higher incomes and lower poverty rates. But the state’s median household income dropped, after inflation, from about $69,800 in 2010 to $67,500 in 2011. It is down 8 percent from the $73,500 recorded in 2008. (A separate Census Bureau report that came out last week showed slightly different numbers, but the same trend.) (Lynn and Sheingold, The Record)
Cerf & Co. deliver ‘State of the Schools’ address
It’s becoming an annual “State of the Schools” address, with the New Jersey’s education commissioner and top lieutenants exhaustively outline the administration’s plans and priorities for the coming year.
Yesterday, state Education Commissioner Chris Cerf’s so-called convocation before 400 school administrators gathered at Jackson Liberty High School lasted more than two hours and nearly 80 PowerPoint slides.
In the end, the presentation included both the familiar and the new, including a guest appearance of the old topic of early literacy. Yet Cerf was also reminded by those in the audience that even modest plans don’t always fall in place as smoothly as a slide show. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Only about half of N.J.’s public schools meet goals
About half the public schools in New Jersey did not meet the state’s new goals for student performance on standardized tests and will have to come up with improvement plans, state education officials said at a Wednesday meeting of school district administrators.
The number of schools falling short is higher than it was under the federal No Child Left Behind standards that the new goals replaced, but the consequences are far gentler.
Bari Erlichson, chief performance officer for the state Education Department, told a meeting of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators that the performance results would be available soon to each school. She said complete reports would be sent next month. (Mulvihill, Associated Press)
Poll: Menendez opens 14-point lead in Senate race
A new poll shows U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez has opened up a 14-point lead over his Republican challenger among likely voters.
The Fairleigh Dickinson-PublicMind poll released Thursday shows GOP state Sen. Joe Kyrillos (kih-RIHL’-lohs) trails among independents, women, moderates and non-white voters. It also shows only six percent say they might change their minds before election day.
Menendez, the 58-year-old Democratic incumbent, is seeking his second six-year term. Kyrillos, a 52-year-old veteran state lawmaker, faces a name recognition and money disadvantage in trying to unseat him.
New Jerseyans haven’t elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate since the `70s. (Associated Press)
N.J. Senators announce funding for flood-prone area buyout
U.S. Senators Frank R. Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, both D-NJ, announced Wednesday more than $3.3 million in federal funding for voluntary home buyouts for a flood-prone senior citizen housing complex in Monmouth County’s Ocean Township.
The funding, provided through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), will be used to purchase and remove eight sections of a seniors apartment complex that has been repeatedly damaged by floods, according to a press release. Built in 1970, the housing complex will be entirely demolished and the area will be restored to its natural environment. (Bonamo, NJ.com)
New Jersey promoting itself to captive insurers
Businesses that want to hold on to more of their insurance premium dollars and reap tax benefits through a sophisticated form of self-coverage known as captive insurance, typically set up their insurance subsidiaries offshore, in the Cayman Islands or Bermuda, where regulatory requirements are lax and the scuba diving and golf courses make business meetings more interesting.
But a growing number of states, including New Jersey, are setting up their own regulatory frameworks to allow for the creation of captive insurance companies within their borders as an economic development ploy.
New Jersey passed its captive insurance law last year, as part of Governor Christie’s effort to make the state more business-friendly. (Newman, The Record)
Congressional culture clash
Liberal voters in overwhelmingly Democratic towns like Teaneck and Hackensack are about to meet the person heavily favored to become their new congressman.
Liberal, he’s not.
Scott Garrett, a deeply conservative Republican, has represented the 5th Congressional District for nine years, and this year, with a redrawn map, about 150,000 more people in Bergen County are being added to the district.
He is a sharp ideological contrast to the Democrats who have traditionally represented voters in central Bergen. He voted against aid for 9/11 rescue workers and disaster relief for Hurricane Katrina. (Jackson, The Record)
Small businesses put pressure on Christie to implement health insurance exchange
Small-business owners gathered in Trenton today to put pressure on Gov. Chris Christie to implement a statewide health insurance exchange to help bring down the cost to employers of providing health care to their employees.
More than 200 business owners signed a letter urging the governor to implement the Affordable Care Act as soon as possible, rather than waiting for the presidential election cycle to end. The letter was presented at the Statehouse by the Main Street Alliance, and several small-business owners spoke in a press conference. (Caliendo, NJBIZ)
Former Essex Deputy Mayor gets 24 months in prison
A U.S. District Judge today heard the guilty plea of a former Essex County Deputy Sheriff to laundering money he believed was the proceeds of drug trafficking, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Eric Hawkins, 44, of Union, previously pleaded guilty to an Information charging him with money laundering.
He entered his guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Robert B. Kugler in Camden federal court and received 24 months in prison. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Former Bergen Sheriff Jay Alpert fired from Port Authority after college degree controversy
Former Bergen County Sheriff Jay Alpert was one of thousands of graduates of a Louisiana diploma mill who requested tuition reimbursement after federal prosecutors declared the school a money-making scheme that sold worthless degrees in the mid-1990s, a Port Authority investigation has found.
But Alpert continued to cite his degrees from the school years after authorities notified him that it was a scam and cut him a check from a victims compensation fund, the probe found. (Boburg, The Record)
N.J. officials say Atlantic City making progress
New Jersey officials say a wide-ranging effort to improve Atlantic City is starting to pay off, from new private investment in non-casino attractions to a $20 million advertising campaign that’s beginning to change negative perceptions about the seaside gambling resort.
Speakers at an Assembly panel hearing Wednesday said the state’s efforts to improve public safety, cleanliness and economic development in Atlantic City are bearing fruit more than a year after Gov. Chris Christie’s administration adopted a plan to rescue the struggling resort. (Associated Press)
Rethinking, reinventing, and rebranding Atlantic City
By moving a committee hearing to Atlantic City, state legislators got what they were hoping for: good news, or at least cautiously optimistic assessments, about the future of the embattled resort and its environs.
Leaders from a variety of casino, civic, and arts organizations touted everything from a new parking garage to volleyball courts to lightshows to the prospects for luring bohemian artists to rundown areas.
Even as they praised each other’s collaborative efforts, though, many urged the Assembly Tourism and Arts Committee to take a regional approach and support (Tyrrell, NJ Spotlight) and outside official plans.
Audit: Port Authority toll, fare hikes necessary to fund projects
One year after controversial toll and fare hikes went into effect, and with more on the way, the Port Authority released an audit that concluded that the increases were necessary to fix the agency’s aging facilities.
The report, commissioned by the governors of New Jersey and New York, also lauded what it called recent improvements in management, cost controls and transparency, echoing past comments by the appointees both governors have chosen to run the authority. In many ways, the report sought to portray a once-dysfunctional agency turning the corner, while acknowledging substantial financial challenges in the future. (Boburg, The Record)
Fine Print: Public Service Electric & Gas’ new solar filing
What it is: A nearly $1 billion plan to extend the PSE&G’s program of installing solar panels on homes and businesses throughout the state, by far the most aggressive of any of the four state electric utilities.
Total spending: $883 million over a five-year period if approved by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities in a filing submitted to the state regulatory agency earlier this summer.
Total megawatts: Under the utility’s proposal, it would build 233 megawatts of new solar capacity in the state, a target it says will help New Jersey meet very aggressive goals to increase the amount of electricity produced by renewable forms of energy.
How it breaks down: The bulk of the spending — $690 million — would be targeted to build grid-connected solar projects, which supply power to the regional power grid. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Mixed message from real estate as uneven recovery continues
New Jersey’s commercial real estate market continues to have a mixed recovery, as major gains in some sectors are being tempered by slow growth in others, a panel of developers said today.
The panelists, speaking at the annual RealShare NJ conference in New Brunswick, told an increasingly familiar story that includes a thriving multifamily market, a healthy industrial sector and an office market stymied by the state’s tepid job growth. (Burd, NJBIZ)
Monroe to issue new tax bills following probe prompted by calls to governor’s radio show
Monroe residents will be receiving revised property tax bills following a state review of the township budget that uncovered a tax levy increase of $500,000 over the property tax cap, according to Gov. Chris Christie.
The review was prompted by calls to Christie from Monroe residents on a New Jersey 101.5 FM call-in radio show, “Ask the Governor.” The residents were upset about the increases in their property tax bills.
Christie — speaking Wednesday on New Jersey 101.5’s morning-drive show hosted by Jim Gearhart, before going to the South Amboy Town Hall meeting at the South Amboy YMCA — said he asked state Department of Community Affairs to review Monroe Mayor Richard Pucci’s budget. (Staff, Asbury Park Press)
From the Back Room
Booker headlines Mercer Dem fundraiser
Newark Mayor Cory Booker spoke before a packed house of Mercer County Democrats at John Henry’s in Hamilton Township.
Booker gave his usual stump speech, telling tales of his days playing football at Stanford. Booker made no mention of a potential gubernatorial run during the gathering.
A source in the room said the mayor had the rapt attention of the few hundred attendees, who paid between $60 and $125 to attend. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Most see an N.J. win for Obama
Many of you know it, some of you might not want to believe it, but all of us must live with the reality.
President Barack Obama is going to win New Jersey in November. GOP nominee Mitt Romney doesn’t stand a chance. No less an authority on the Garden State’s voters than Gov. Chris Christie has admitted it.
“Listen, let me be honest with you, (Romney is) not winning New Jersey,” Christie told the Michigan delegation during the Republican National Convention in late August. “It’s not happening.” (Schoonejongen, Asbury Park Press)