TRENTON – After being quiet for much of the summer, the Office of Legislative Services came out roaring again earlier this week.
And to the chagrin of Gov. Chris Christie, it was still delivering less than positive news.
A report released Monday said the state was projected to be $250 million short in revenues in the last fiscal year. While it’s true, as Christie had pointed out, that it was less than half of the shortfall OLS had forecasted a few months prior, the announcement nonetheless served as an opportunity for the governor to take shots at the non-partisan den of the “Dr. Kevorkian of numbers.”
“That’s good news,’’ Christie said sarcastically. “A month ago they said it would be $542 million. He (David Rosen of OLS) can’t get it right. Now he’s admitted he’s wrong by more than 50 percent.”
Maybe it was just coincidental, but on a related note, the Christie Town Hall banner this past week didn’t read “Jersey Comeback,” a statement much maligned by Democrats. Rather, this week’s town hall, in the Monmouth County suburb of Howell, read “Christie Middle-class Reform Agenda.”
The Economic Development Authority held its final meeting with Caren Franzini at the helm.
Outside of a few appreciative comments from board members, it was another meeting during which millions of dollars in subsides were doled out to retain employers (Honeywell), kick-start a redevelopment project (a supermarket project in Camden), save a floundering casino (Resorts, which will house Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville restaurant), and earmark more funds for residential projects near public transportation facilities.
The Assembly Budget Committee will hold a hearing next week to look into the revenue shortfall matter once again.
Democratic lawmakers this past week urged the Legislature to get going on a number of bills addressing the sensitive topic of domestic violence. They held a press conference Wednesday in which Democratic Sens. Linda Greenstein, Barbara Buono and Joe Vitale said the time has come to approve several bills related to domestic violence and technological devices, such as electronic bracelets (S331), and GPS devices in cell phones (S148).
They have been heard in past sessions put have yet to reach a governor’s desk.
Unemployment claims backlog
A group of Union County Democrats is calling on the Labor Department to expedite the Appeals Hearings process, saying there shouldn’t be a three-year backlog for residents to find out if they will be eligible to receive unemployment benefits.
However, Labor Department officials said given the high volume of cases during the economic downturn, and the staff cuts on top of that, it is doing the best it can. It points out that nearly 75 percent of appeals cases are unsuccessful, meaning the outcome doesn’t change.
A week after long-running plans to have Cherry Hill and Merchantville merge were shelved, the Local Finance Board approved a consolidation study for the Union County towns of Scotch Plains and Fanwood. But Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr was far from enthusiastic about the idea of studying the merger, saying it doesn’t represent the community’s feelings.