Morning Digest: Oct. 30, 2013

Pascrell takes on Obamacare foes in D.C.

WASHINGTON, D.C.  –“Let’s not water the wine here.”

In his best “tell it like it is” mode, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, (D-9), who represents parts of northern Jersey, got into it with a Republican from Arkansas today at the House Ways and Means Committee hearing into problems with the Affordable Care Act.

Displaying that “take no prisoners’’ attitude of a typical N.J. pol, Pascrell stood and pointed to GOP members and asked them pointedly which one of them wanted to tell parents of 17 million children with pre-existing conditions who are now covered that it is going to be taken away.

Listen and watch as Pascrell blasts governors who refused to expand Medicaid or set up health exchanges. (Mooney/PolitickerNJ)



Essex County Democratic Committee Chairmen Phil Thigpen has died

Phil Thigpen, chairman of the Essex County Democratic Party, has died.

A veteran leader of the party who had the respect of different factions in an often divided Essex, and in all corners of an extremely diverse county, Mr. Thigpen was 87. (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)



Buono OK’d for another $68,000 in matching funds

TRENTON – The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission has approved $68,010 in public matching funds for the gubernatorial general election campaign of state Sen. Barbara Buono. (Mooney/PolitickerNJ)



White House playing defense on Obamacare

President Barack Obama’s soundbites are coming back to bite him.

As he attempted to sell a complex health care reform plan to skeptical voters during the 2008 campaign and his first year in office, Obama boiled down the benefits to a series of pithy promises:

If you like your existing insurance, you can keep it. Shopping for a plan would be as easy as buying a plane ticket on Expedia. Annual premiums would drop by $2,500 for the typical family.

The simplicity of those messages are now running up against the reality of implementing the most far-reaching health care overhaul in 50 years. (Brown/Politico)



Bill Pascrell to GOP: ‘Let’s say it like it is’

A House hearing on the troubled launch of grew heated Tuesday when Rep. Bill Pascrell slammed his Republican colleagues for refusing to cooperate on Obamacare.

“Let’s talk. Let’s not water the wine here. Let’s say it like it is. You refuse to expand many of these governors’ Medicaid, they refuse to set up state marketplaces,” Pascrell (D-N.J.) said during the House Ways and Means Committee hearing. (McCalmont/Politico)




Forum considers ways to better protect N.J. towns in future storms

As New Jersey enters into a second year of rebuilding following Superstorm Sandy, it must consider constructing buildings that are more resistant to storm damage and possibly retreating from areas prone to repetitive flooding.

Any future planning must also recognize the effects of climate change and projected sea level rise, which could cause flooding the likes of Sandy even in routine storms, speakers emphasized at a symposium at Monmouth University Tuesday that examined how the state and local communities can better prepare for the next major storm. It was held on the one-year anniversary of Sandy.

“Almost every model tells us within this century we’ll see a (projected) 5 foot sea level rise,” said former Gov. Christie Whitman, also a former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from 2001 to 2003. “You can see how much further inland these impacts will go. We’re seeing 100 year storms happening every five years and we’re still reluctant to take steps.” (Sudol/The Record)   





10% in N.J. may be forced to switch health coverage

One in 10 New Jerseyans will need to change their health coverage over the next year under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, industry experts say, despite repeated assurances from the Obama administration that those who liked their current plan could keep it.

Their policies currently do not include all of the health benefits required by the new law, such as pediatric dental and vision care, and had to be redesigned and repriced before the main part of the law takes effect in January. (Washburn/The Record)   



Christie, Buono Differ Sharply on Tax Cuts, Fiscal Challenges

Governor presses immediate tax cut, while Democrat favors millionaire’s tax to fund property tax relief

This is the seventh in a series of articles exploring the critical policy challenges that the next governor and Legislature will face, as well as their positions on these issues.

Four years ago, Gov. Chris Christie inherited a state with a massive built-in budget deficit, a millionaire’s tax about to expire, and $2 billion in federal stimulus funding about to go away. Property taxes were rising, as was state debt. The state’s long-term unfunded liability for pension and retiree healthcare costs for teachers, police, and state and local government employees was a staggering $100 billion. The Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund was broke, and a new $8 billion plan would soon be needed to pay for highway, bridge, and mass transit capital projects.

The policy choices that Christie made to address those fiscal crises, the tax and budget votes that his Democratic challenger, Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex), cast in her 18 years in the Legislature, and the sharply divergent approaches they would take to the state’s future funding challenges are the most critical differences they have laid out in their year-long campaigns: (Magyar/NJSpotlight) 




NJ Takes New Route in Latest ‘Race to the Top’ Funding Application

Four state departments join in bid for $44M to finance improvement, expansion of preschool and early childhood programs

The federal Race to the Top competition brings to mind the contest that helped fuel new standards, testing and teacher evaluations in schools across New Jersey and elsewhere.

But a lesser-known aspect of the process aims to improve preschools and early childhood education as well.

The Christie administration is making its second try for the early childhood money through the Race to the Top program, this month filing an application for $44 million over four years that would fund and expand new standards and training for preschools and child-care centers serving low-income students. (Mooney/NJSpotlight) 



Democrats who endorsed Christie now appearing in mailers ith the governor

It looks like many of the Democrats who have endorsed Gov. Chris Christie for reelection have upped the stakes by agreeing to appear in campaign mailers touting their support for the Republican governor.

Democrats in roughly 20 areas of the state, including County Executive Joe DiVincenzo and Sherriff Armando Fontoura in Essex County, are part of the Christie campaign blitz.

“Democrat leaders across New Jersey – and here at home – are standing with Governor Christie,” the mailer reads. 

Included in the Essex County version is a quote from DiVincenzo as well as a picture of Christie and the county executive arm in arm.

“From his first days in office, Governor Christie has acted with bold and strong leadership to get New Jersey back on the right path,” the quote reads. “I could not be more proud or enthusiastic to give him my support for re-election as our governor.” (Isherwood/ 




Buono and husband earned more than $500k in 2012


TRENTON — Barbara Buono, the Democratic candidate for governor, and her husband, a physician, earned more than a half a million dollars last year, according to tax returns released today by Buono’s campaign.

The tax return — which shows a combined income of $537,660 — does not distinguish between the incomes of Buono and her husband, Martin Gizzi. But David Turner, a spokesman for Buono, said that she earned only her $49,000 salary as a state senator from Middlesex County. The rest was earned by Gizzi.

Buono’s family earned more than Gov. Chris Christie’s. Christie and his wife, Mary Pat — a Wall Street finance executive — took in $478,977 last year, according to a tax return released Friday by the Christie campaign. (Friedman/Star-Ledger)  




Booker Goes to D.C. as Zuckerberg Money Follows Mayor

Cory Booker joins the U.S. Senate with one year to show New Jersey voters he can transition from being mayor of Newark, where he charmed Wall Street into the start of an economic and philanthropic revival.

The 44-year-old Democrat, who won an Oct. 16 special election to complete the term of the late Frank Lautenberg, will be sworn in tomorrow at the U.S. Capitol. He takes office amid partisan fights over federal spending, with an aim to show a record of accomplishment as he campaigns for a full term in 2014. (Dopp & Young/Bloomberg) 






NJ’s Unemployment Insurance Fund Finally Solvent

For years, leaders of both political parties in New Jersey routinely raided the Unemployment Insurance (UI) fund to help balance budgets. The state recently enacted a law banning the practice and today the fund is finally solvent. That’s great news for the state’s business community.

 “It would be easy to miss in the midst of a government shutdown and partisan bickering in Washington, but here in New Jersey, government got it right,” said Phil Kirschner, president of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association. “Our UI fund faced serious financial problems, but instead of engaging in partisan finger-pointing, Gov. Chris Christie, the Legislature and the NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development did the hard work necessary to soften the tax blow and fix the system so that we will not have to endure shortfalls again.”

Now that the UI fund is solvent and has enough money to cover its benefit payments businesses will save an estimated $211 million in January because employers will no longer have to pay an increase in their Federal Unemployment Tax Act taxes. Paying less in taxes could be lead to job growth which is something else New Jersey desperately needs. (McArdle/NJ101.5) 





With Barbara Buono trailing Chris Chrisite, former candidate Peter Sharpio feels her pain

SOUTH ORANGE — If anyone feels Barbara Buono’s pain, it’s Peter Shapiro.

Like Buono, Shapiro ran into a political buzz saw nearly 30 years ago when he faced a popular Republican governor and saw Democrats he thought would support him scatter to the wind.

When all was said and done in the governor’s race of 1985, Gov. Thomas H. Kean won re-election with 69.6 percent of the vote, leaving Shapiro with a dubious distinction: loser in what’s still the biggest landslide in state history.

“You always hope for a miracle,” Shapiro recalled in an interview in South Orange, where he lives and works. “You had the feeling that if only you had infinite time and the ability to individually talk to every voter you could prevail. … In the 1985 gubernatorial campaign, even with infinite time, that was probably impossible.” (Portnoy/Star-Ledger) 





Buono aims to gain ground against Christie despite poll numbers

EDISON — On the day a new poll showed her 33 points behind Gov. Chris Christie, Democratic challenger Barbara Buono continued to trek her campaign across the state Tuesday trying to gain ground.

One week from Election Day, the state senator from Middlesex County touted her education plan during a visit to Nutley Senior High School, her alma mater. She spoke to leaders of the state’s Indian-American community in Edison. And four days after Christie released his tax returns, Buono released her own.

Still, Tuesday’s Quinnipiac University poll painted a grim picture for Buono. It showed Christie, a popular Republican and a likely presidential candidate in 2016, leading Buono 64 to 31 percent among likely voters — a commanding lead that has widened as the campaign marches on.

The poll also revealed that 35 percent of voters still don’t know enough about Buono to form an opinion. (Johnson and Hutchins/Star-Ledger) 



 From the Back Room

Statement from the Family of Chairman Phil Thigpen; banquet postponed


The Phil Thigpen Family a short time ago issued a statement on the death of the chairman of the Essex County Democratic Committee.

“To the general public, Phil Thigpen was a political and government leader with perseverance who stopped at nothing to overcome racial boundaries and do what was best for the constituents who he represented. To his family, Phil Thigpen was a devoted husband and adoring father and grandfather who supported us with his limitless caring and love. We appreciate the outpouring of sympathy from the community during this difficult time and know that Phil would have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of people who have shared their condolences.”

Tonight’s chairman’s banquet scheduled for 6 p.m. at Mayfair Farms has been postponed. (PolitickerNJ)






Bramnick at comedy fundraiser for Sandy relief

TRENTON – Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, (R-21), Westfield, will perform at a comedy fundraiser for Sandy relief.

Bramnick, often labeled “The Funniest Lawyer in New Jersey,’’ will hold the event Nov. 19 at the Tropicana Casino in Atlantic City.

Tickets for “Laughing Together: A Healing for Sandy Victims,’’ at the casino’s Comedy Shop in The Quarter, are $20. (PolitickerNJ)





After Sandy, feds right to step in on climate change

The federal government’s second round of recovery funds, announced on the eve of today’s Hurricane Sandy anniversary, is not just for the many towns still struggling to rebuild — but also for the countless victims of future storms.

Because this latest allocation of $1.5 billion comes with scientific strings attached: The feds will now require states like New Jersey to plan based on climate change.

We’re still waiting for more details. But it appears that in order to use this money to rebuild anything from roads to bridges, power substations to water treatment facilities, the Christie administration must take into account what modern science tells us: Rising sea levels put us at risk of worse flooding and more ferocious storms in the future. (Star-Ledger Editorial Board)   Morning Digest: Oct. 30, 2013