Morning Digest: April 29, 2014

FDU Poll: Christie, other 2016 GOP Prez candidates bunched up behind Clinton

The Republican Party continues its search for a presidential candidate who can attract more public support than former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The most recent national survey from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind finds Clinton is favored over a variety of possible Republican contenders in hypothetical head-to-head matchups among registered voters. The closest anyone comes to Clinton is Minnesota Congressman and former Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan with 46% favoring Clinton to 38% for Ryan. However, once the margin of error is accounted for, all look virtually the same against Clinton if the election were to be held today.

Clinton beats Christie, 46% to 36%; she beats U.S. Senator Rand Paul 48% to 38%; former Florida Governor Jeb Bush 49% to 33%; and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee 49% to 36%.

FDU Poll: Christie, other 2016 GOP Prez candidates bunched up behind Clinton | Politicker NJ

Newark mayor’s race: With two weeks left, Baraka, Jeffries and their allies seek edge

NEWARK – The Forest Hill section of Newark’s North Ward is in the city, but somehow not of it in the minds of many.

Long porches, blooming cherry blossom trees and broad lawns clash with the vision that many New Jersey residents have of Newark as a barren urban wasteland. But make no mistake: in this year’s mayoral campaign, just more than two weeks before the May 13 decision day, the front lines between this year’s rivals – South Ward Councilman Ras Baraka and former state Assistant Attorney General Shavar Jeffries – are not fixed, but fluid and fluctuating.

The tone for the beginning of the Newark mayoral race’s end game could be seen at a candidate’s debate on Friday night sponsored by the Forest Hill Civic Association at the Third Presbyterian Church, located at the corner of Ridge Street and Abington Avenue in Newark.

Baraka and Jeffries, inches apart, gave no quarter. They exchanged policy soliloquies that contravened each other, but exchanged not a single glance.

While key issues such as the future of Newark’s schools and crime were discussed before an overflow crowd of 400 neighborhood residents, one flashpoint flickered over concerns that will haunt whoever becomes mayor of the state’s largest city on July 1 – the estimated $30 million municipal budget deficit and the potential state takeover of the city’s finances.  (Bonamo/PolitickerNJ)

Newark mayor’s race: With two weeks left, Baraka, Jeffries and their allies seek edge | Politicker NJ

Torres argues that Dem leaders disenfranchised seven campaigns

Read more at Torres argues that Dem leaders disenfranchised seven campaigns | Politicker NJ

PATERSON – Former Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres said U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-9) would make a mistake if he jumped in the mayor’s race.

Pascrell just officially jumped in, backing Council President Andre Sayegh.

“Today Democratic leaders displayed poor leadership because all of the candidates are Democrats and so basically they disenfranchised seven campaigns, seven groups, from the process with the selection of one,” said Torres.

The former mayor’s headquarters stands a block from City Hall, and dozens of his supporters took to the courtyard facing the front steps to protest Pascrell’s and Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly’s (D-35) endorsement.

So did the supporters of the other mayoral campaigns, creating the interesting optical effect of rival camps creating common cause, even as they splinter one another, each in an effort to be mayor.

Torres backers and the backers of Mayor Jeff Jones stood side by side in the jeering crowd. (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)

Torres argues that Dem leaders disenfranchised seven campaigns | Politicker NJ

N.J. Senate panel considers tough questions on heroin, painkiller addiction

State legislators on Monday weighed options for combating a statewide surge of heroin and prescription painkiller addiction, but arrived at no concrete solutions for a crisis that claimed at least 800 lives in New Jersey last year.

The Senate Health, Human Services, and Senior Services Committee discussed a task force report on heroin and opiates, released last month by the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, and heard testimony from the council’s acting executive director, Celina Gray.

Committee members expressed alarm about the breadth of the state’s opiate addiction problem, but also asked pointed questions of Gray about the Christie administration’s financial commitment to the task force’s recommendations, the efficacy of current recovery and prevention programs, and the task force’s apparent focus on suburban addiction to the exclusion of urban areas long blighted by drugs and drug-related violence.

Gray, who at the meeting’s outset presented the report’s recommendations — including tighter controls on prescribing practices, expanded recovery programs and updated drug-awareness curricula “to reflect the present landscape and crisis” – had few answers for the senators.

“This is a law enforcement problem, but it’s a public health crisis,” committee chair Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Woodbridge, said. “I’m a little more interested in what is evidence-based prevention and treatment programs. I’m really past all the balloons, the confetti and the puppies and the donkey show, the ‘Just Say No.’ It doesn’t work.”

Vitale and several other senators stated concerns about the barriers to affordable, effective, timely treatment for addicts in need.  (O’Brien/The Record)  


N.J. budget shortfall grows to $800 million

Governor Christie’s predictions for tax collections have missed the mark, amounting to an $800 million shortfall that leaves little time and few places for the governor and lawmakers to find savings.

Christie, a Republican who preaches fiscal discipline, has been forced into several budget fixes in recent years to offset missed revenue projections and not break the state constitution’s requirement for a balanced budget. Last year, Treasury delayed about $400 million in property tax relief, and earlier this year the state cut spending by $700 million through a series of lapses and other adjustments.

On Monday, state Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff announced the latest bad fiscal news and warned of new budget cuts and “impounding budgeted appropriations.” He said more details would be released in a few weeks.

In past years, governors have delayed school aid and held back pension contributions to alleviate last-minute shortfalls. Sidamon-Eristoff would only say Monday that budget changes will be announced when he comes before lawmakers again on May 21 and 22.

“The state will take any and all actions necessary to offset the reductions in anticipated revenues, including the identification of additional lapses and savings opportunities, as well as the exercise of the full range and scope of executive authority, including, but not limited to, reserving and/or impounding budgeted appropriations,” Sidamon-Eristoff said in a news release.

Christie’s prior budget changes drew the attention of Wall Street ratings agency Standard & Poor’s, which cited the governor’s “bullish revenue assumptions” and the frequent use of “one-time measures” as factors in the downgrading of New Jersey’s credit rating announced earlier this month.

The agency also warned another ratings downgrade could come if forecasted growth estimates “fail to materialize.”

While the earlier revenue misses came as a result of Christie overestimating the state’s recovery from the latest recession, this time the shortfall comes as the result of a national trend affecting states like New Jersey and Connecticut that rely heavily on high-income earners. Effects of 2012 federal tax policy changes known as the “fiscal cliff” made New Jersey extremely reliant on guessing final payments from the very rich that the state ultimately got wrong as it set spending for the current, $33 billion budget.

David Rosen, budget analyst from New Jersey’s non-partisan Office of Legislative Services, told lawmakers earlier this month that he doubted Christie’s revenue projections would come through. But his own estimates were only $87 million less than the governor’s, far short of the actual gap in tax collections announced Monday. (Reitmeyer/The Record)  

Christie to sign bill lifting ‘insurmountable barrier’ between adoptees, birth parents

TRENTON — Acknowledging the state has placed an “insurmountable barrier between adopted children and their birth parents,” Gov. Chris Christie announced Monday he would support a law enabling adoptees to obtain their birth certificates.

The governor — whose decision marks a major shift in his position — said he had one stipulation: that the law not go into effect until 2017, allowing parents time to decide whether they wanted to be found.

Three years ago, he rejected similar legislation at the behest of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, New Jersey Right to Life and the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which for decades had argued that birth mothers were promised lifelong anonymity in the 1950s and ‘60s.

In a landmark compromise with the bill’s sponsors, Christie said he recognized that society’s views had changed, and that New Jersey needed to catch up. A court decision has sealed adoption records since 1940.

“The nature of adoption has transformed over the last half-century from a path of last resort to a life-affirming partnership between birth parents, adoptive parents and their children,” according to a statement from the governor’s office that outlined how the bill (S873) must be revised for him to sign it.

“Adoption is now properly regarded as a natural choice for parents seeking to grow their families,” the statement said, “and a supportive and loving pathway for parents who reach the mature decision to provide their child with the opportunities of a new home.” (Livio/Star-Ledger)  


Christie may cut budget to close growing shortfall, Treasury says

TRENTON — New Jersey’s budget shortfall will grow to a staggering $807 million at the end of April, state officials announced Monday while warning of a fiscal emergency that could force Gov. Chris Christie to make deep and unexpected cuts to several programs.

The state Treasury, in a rare announcement last night, said the Republican governor is bracing for a tough financial blow when the month wraps up tomorrow. Despite the setback, Christie “will take any and all actions necessary” to find the money to shore up his $32.2 billion budget — even if it means slashing property tax rebates or other programs, Treasury indicated.

An early look at major tax revenues by Treasury officials showed the state will be $600 million short of Christie’s estimates for April. (Rizzo/Star-Ledger)  



From the Back Room



Losing the English Vote

A Patersonian originally from England, Michael Symonds of the 3rd Ward objected to a statement made today by incumbent Mayor Jeff Jones concerning his country of origin.

Observing the pomp of U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell’s endorsement of Council President Andre Sayegh in front of City Hall, Jones cracked “This ain’t England.”

“It shows a lack of understanding,” Symonds said. “He doesn’t get the way things work in England. When it comes to the transition of power, government is like greased lightning compared to here. It’s literally the prime minister coming in through the front and they have the moving trucks in the back.

“I would hope Jeff would have a better understanding of how we do it in Great Britain,” the British transplant added.

The afternoon event that sparked a protest had some backers of Jones either in the crowd joining in or upstairs on the 2nd floor expressing dismay at what they saw as a lack of establishment decorum.

“That was very mean to do that to the mayor, having an endorsement on the steps of City Hall while he’s up there,” said one Jones backer, speaking on condition of anonymity.  

Losing the English Vote | Politicker NJ






Campaign Notes: Sumter stays out

The absence of Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter (D-35) from today’s event sent scowls through the crowd of Democratic Party operatives subjected to backlash from other campaigns in a loud courtyard this afternoon.

Following weeks of party prodding, Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly (D-35) “manned up,” in the words of one organization man, and offered his endorsement of Council Presdient Andre Sayegh in the mayor’s race, underlining in his public remarks his dedication to the leadership of Passaic County Democratic Committee Chairman John Currie.

But Sumter should have been there, one party member, speaking on condition of anonymity, seethed.

The former campaign manager for incumbent Mayor Jeff Jones (and goddaughter of Currie), Sumter told PolitickerNJ earlier this year that she intended to stay neutral in the local contest.

A source told PolitickerNJ that the lawmaker had other duties today, including the responsibility of attending a memorial service.

Campaign Notes: Sumter stays out | Politicker NJ




Silicon Valley lawmaker endorses Chivukula

A West Coast federal lawmaker supports New Jerseyans sending Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula to Congress.

U.S. Rep. Mike Honda (D-Cali) recently issued an endorsement of Chivukula’s CD 12 bid.

The lawmaker is vying for the Democratic Party’s nomination against Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, Sen. Linda Greenstein and Princeton professor Andrew Zwicker.

Honda wrote:

“Upendra is a longtime friend and I know personally of his deep commitment to the people he serves. Throughout his career, he has stood up for progressive values, from championing immigration reform as the first sponsor of the DREAM Act in New Jersey, to standing up for seniors and fighting to bring good jobs and opportunity to working families. We have worked together to elect more strong Democrats to Congress, and I am excited that Upendra is now running himself.

“Beyond his deep commitment to his community, I am impressed by Upendra’s professional experience as an engineer and the unique perspective that provides him as an Assemblyman. When my friend and colleague Rep. Holt retires, Congress will lose a strong voice for science, progress and innovation.  As a former science teacher myself, I’m confident that Upendra Chivukula will continue a needed focus and voice in Congress for science and innovation.

“We need more Representatives in Congress who will take the compassionate and analytical approach that Upendra Chivukula brings to everything he does.  On June 3rd, I urge the voters of the 12th District to vote for Upendra Chivukula.”

Silicon Valley lawmaker endorses Chivukula | Politicker NJ

Political Insider: Only $170 million in paring to go

This is a test. See if you can read the following lines without laughing:

“The candidates were a fountain of clichés. They were experts in meaningless platitudes. And their followers applauded their ‘vision.’ Incumbent Mayor Mark Smith tried to convince folks that he’s just on the verge of turning it all around and has made a dramatic impact in cutting debt, with only $170 million more worth of paring to go. Jimmy Davis says he voted in Bayonne a few times and didn’t just move back to run for mayor, but rather he was anxious to get back to his hometown. He also said Smith had enough time to fix things and blew it. Now it’s time for a new face: his.”

It’s from the Political Insider.

Political Insider: Only $170 million in paring to go | Politicker NJ

Report: The SEC gets in on the act

The Securities and Exchange Commission is examining New Jersey’s use of up to $1.8 billion in tax-exempt bond financing from the Port Authorityof New York and New Jersey to fix a bridge and roadways feeding into the state, Main Justice reported.

Business Insider has a break down of the story here.

Report: The SEC gets in on the act | Politicker NJ Morning Digest: April 29, 2014