Weekly Roundup: March 4-8

TRENTON – Several committees held hearings this week at the Statehouse focusing on Sandy rebuilding and oversight, health insurance concerns, school construction, and taxation.

Despite the administration’s much touted goal of providing quality education to every student regardless of zip code, the head of the Schools Development Authority, which primarily builds schools in low-income areas, said it has only built two new schools since it came into office in 2010.  

But CEO Mark Larkins said 10 new school projects are expected to break ground this year.  

Internet Gaming

Moody’s Investors Service credit rating agency said this week it likes New Jersey’s decision in wanting to enter the internet gambling market, saying it could add some $180 million in casino revenues in the coming fiscal year alone.

“The amount, which may be optimistic, would reduce a key area of state budget risk,” Moody’s said in its weekly Credit Outlook.  “In fiscal 2013 year-to-date, poor revenue performance has opened a $350 million budget gap for the state, of which underperforming casino revenues make up 12% ($44 million).”

Folks at Atlantic City and the Treasury Department are certainly hoping it pays dividends for the state.

Autism insurance

The 2010 law requiring insurance companies to cover autistic patients was heralded as a major breakthrough when it was signed into law by Gov. Jon Corzine. But several parents complained about the runaround they have been receiving,  in which they were told various aspects are not covered by their insurance plans, causing physical and emotional stress.

Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-36) of Passaic, urged stakeholders to craft regulations to correct these inequities or else legislation will need to be introduced. 

Other issues

The League of Municipalities kept up its pitched battle of having energy tax receipts be under the municipalities’ control instead of it all going to the state. 

On Sandy, the goal is to improve oversight and to make sure utilities withstand future storms. To do so, committees passed bills such as having environmental monitors present.

On Friday, Rep. Frank Pallone took aim at Congressional Republicans, blaming them primarily for the sequestered cuts that are bound to have a negative impact on several federal programs. He also called for quicker processing of claims for flood insurance, which Gov. Christie has previously called ” a disgrace.”

In a see I told you so moment, Gov. Chris Christie’s revenue projections from a year ago seem to be bearing fruit, as the Treasury Department’s revenue figures were up for the third month in a row.

Weekly Roundup: March 4-8