Weekly Roundup: Week of April 1

TRENTON – Teens will have to wait a bit longer than they may have had in prior years to work on their tan. At least when it comes to indoors anyway.

Gov. Chris Christie signed into law this week legislation that would prevent teens under age 17 from getting a tan at a tanning parlor and other facilities. Those 17 and older must have a parent present at the first visit, according to the legislation.

The bill was mostly opposed by many tanning businesses, citing the potential loss of business and leaving teens even more vulnerable since they’d likely fill the void by getting their tans unsupervised at beaches. 

But, in his message, Christie, who made it clear he’s not a big fan of over-regulating businesses, said the “tanning mom” incident proved more safety measures need to be in place to protect young residents.

Budget hearings 

NJ Transit executive director James Weinstein assured the Senate Budget Committee earlier this week that there will be no fare hikes for the coming fiscal year for riders.

Much of the ridership has remained steady, if not increased over the past year.

However, Weinstein said a large segment of the train routes and virtually all of the bus services have been restored following the damage caused by Superstorm Sandy to various cars and stations.

About the passenger cars and locomotives that were damaged by salt from the storm flooding, Weinstein said the yards had not previously been flooded. Nonetheless, the transit agency is looking for alternative locations to prevent future damage.

Some Democrats have criticized the administration for  skipping payments again to the Transportation Trust Fund. Only $66 million has been contributed thus far, far below the $700 million that would have been put in there as part of a five-year plan.

The administration is planning to use $250 million in premium bonds the state will receive from investors.

But Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff defended the one-shot maneuver, saying it frees up general funds that would have gone to the TTF toward other programs and items in the spending plan.

Revenues 

Whose projections were right this year? The Office of Legislative Services or the Treasury Department. That remains open to debate, as always, but it appears the Treasury was right when it projected greater growth in the gross income tax than previously thought.

But much of that surge in revenue was the movement of bonuses from the early part of this year to last December to take advantage of lower federal tax rates.

Still, OLS is projecting a revenue shortfall of more than $630 million between the current fiscal year and the next.

Birdsall 

The large and politically connected engineering firm Birdsall was given a bit of help early this week when a Bankruptcy Court judge granted the firm’s request to release some of the assets to have three weeks worth of payroll available to more than 300 rank and file workers whose livelihoods would otherwise have been compromised in a post-Sandy New Jersey.

The state Attorney General’s office said the next day it is going to appeal the decision, saying it undercuts the office’s police powers. In addition, they argue there isn’t enough scrutiny on the funds because the firm has turned down the office’s request to have an independent auditor put in place.

Taxes

A report released by two research groups said that offshore tax havens that are being taken advantage of by corporations are costing the average Garden State residents some $1,260 and small businesses some $4,000 in taxes.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) spoke at a press conference in Asbury Park regarding this trend.

The study, done by NJPIRG and New Jersey Citizen Action, recommends Congress close several offshore tax loopholes. The groups support legislation pending in Washington, D.C. – such as the Cut Unjustified Tax Loopholes Act – that would help bring reform.

Death Penalty

Minority Leader/Assemblyman Jon Bramnick (R-21) of Westfield, called for the state death penalty to be reinstated. The death penalty had been done away with under the Corzine Administration. He said the recent killings of law enforcement officials spurred his interest in the issue.

“The death penalty is the appropriate form of punishment for those who act with such a callous and blatant disregard for life,” he said. “We must make every effort to ensure those who are responsible for taking their life face the appropriate and most severe penalty under the law.”

It’s not clear how soon the issue will be taken up by the legislature.

A report from the liberal-leaning New Jersey Policy Perspective found that the Christie Administration has doled out numerous tax credits and subsidies to corporations. But the administration quickly slammed the report as slanted, adding that the programs have received strong bipartisan support over the years.

 

Weekly Roundup: Week of April 1